There was much ado yesterday about reports that Bill Clinton had tried to get Democrat Kendrick Meek to withdraw from the Florida Senate race and throw his support behind Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist in an effort to beat Republican Marco Rubio. Crist is even saying that he talked to Meek and “several people” at the White House about it. Clinton has confirmed that he did urge Meek to withdraw. What is not clear, though, is whether Meek did in fact agree to drop out, twice, as has been reported. Meek’s campaign manager has denied the story altogether. And Meek is staying in.
First, the math doesn’t add up. Crist + Meek is not necessarily > Rubio. And that is because it is unlikely that enough Meek supporters would switch to Crist. Many, presumably, just wouldn’t vote at all. Like it or not, it has been Rubio’s race to lose for some time. For this to have worked, Meek would have had to drop out and endorse Crist a long time ago. Or, of course, Crist should have switched parties and run as a Democrat. That, perhaps, would have put him ahead of Rubio.
Second, let’s say Meek did drop out. Perhaps Crist would win, perhaps not. But what about Meek’s fellow Florida Democrats who would presumably suffer from not having a Democrat in the high-profile Senate race. The Atlantic‘s Chris Good makes the point:
But, aside from finishing what one started, aside from the fact that Florida Democrats actually believe Kendrick Meek is the best choice for them, and aside from the fact that he has been telling people for years at this point that they should vote for him for actual reasons that have to do with policies he believes in, Meek’s decision to stay in this race will help Democrats across the state of Florida, even if he doesn’t win the Senate seat.
Florida is home to some significant, competitive races this year. The tight governor’s race pits Democratic state CFO Alex Sink against millionaire Tea Party health care businessman Rick Scott, and the Cook Political Report rates five House races as competitive, including the re-election bids of Democratic Reps. Alan Grayson and Ron Klein. Four of those races are tilting the GOP’s way, and Democrats can use all the help they can get.
Meek is now running a big, statewide campaign, with advertising and a get-out-the-vote operation that will turn out his supporters, many of whom will vote for the Democratic ticket, even if they’ve come to the polling place to support him.
The congressman’s constituency through four terms in the House — a constituency that was represented by his mother, Congresswoman Carrie Meek, immediately before Kendrick — happen to reside in Miami’s largest black community in a district that incorporates the northern part of the city.
If Meek dropped out, potentially thousands of black voters in Miami would have less of a reason to vote on Tuesday — and that’s on top of all the Meek supporters across the state of Florida — which would almost certainly hurt Sink’s campaign, in addition to the Democrat engaged in tough House races across the state.
Maybe I’m wrong about this (and maybe Good is wrong). Maybe Meek really could put Crist over the top by dropping out and endorsing him. But, with Rubio poised to win, I’m just not sure it’s worth the risk, and I’m just not sure it’s what’s best for the Democratic Party, which has to look beyond a likely loss to Rubio. And isn’t that what Democrats, including Bill Clinton, should be most concerned about?
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)