(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton last week tried to persuade Florida Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek to drop out of the three-way contest, according to a report by Politico that was confirmed by CNN.
A senior Democratic official told CNN that the White House was aware of Clinton’s negotiations, and that Democrats believed the move would prevent Republican candidate Marco Rubio from winning the Florida Senate seat.
As part of the deal, Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist would then caucus with Democrats in the Senate. Meek was considering the option until two days ago, but the deal eventually fell apart, according to the source.
Another Democratic source familiar with the talks said there was concern about push back in the African American community if Meek dropped out.
According to another senior Democratic official, Clinton received a verbal assurance from Meek twice that he would drop out of the race. Clinton informed other top Democrats and the White House of the decision. Clinton then cleared his schedule and chartered a plane to fly him to Florida to campaign with Meek and Crist together.
“Clinton thought he would be campaigning with Kendrick and Crist, and Meek backed out at the last minute,” the Democratic official said.
Meek’s campaign issued a statement denying the report Thursday.
"The article is not true. Kendrick Meek was never dropping out of this race, is never dropping out of this race, and will never drop out of this race. Kendrick Meek will always stand up for the middle class and will not leave Floridians a choice between two lifelong conservative Republicans who only stand with the special interests. Kendrick is the Democratic nominee so if anyone should drop out, it's Charlie Crist," the statement said.
Dave Hoffman, spokesman for Kendrick Meek said Clinton and Meek speak frequently, but “there was never any agreement for Kendrick to drop out.”
“I dispute that Kendrick ever agreed to drop out. I don’t dispute the fact that they had the discussion,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Crist spoke directly to Meek about the matter Sunday right after the CNN/St. Petersburg Times/USF Debate moderated by Chief Political Correspondent and "State of the Union" anchor Candy Crowley.
“My recollection is that Charlie Crist pulled him aside… it is quite obvious that Charlie Crist would like Kendrick Meek to get out of the race,” Hoffman said. “Charlie Crist knows he is running against a real Democrat. So he pulls him aside and he begs him to get out of the race.”
Crist appeared on MSNBC Thursday night and said “those discussion did occur.” He also said he does not think Meek will drop out of the race before the election.
Crist’s campaign spokesman Danny Kanner confirmed the conversations in a statement.
"While this story is accurate, the Governor's focus is on uniting common-sense Democrats, independents, and Republicans behind his campaign because he is the one candidate who can defeat Tea Party extremist Marco Rubio and deliver bipartisan results for Florida in Washington."
Rubio spokesman Todd Harris issued a statement.
“Charlie Crist truly will say and do anything to get elected and hold on to power. Secret deals to trade away principles for power is already the problem in Washington, it’s not the solution. This is simply politics as usual which is exactly what voters across the country are emphatically rejecting this election.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele also released a statement.
“President Clinton’s actions to have Kendrick Meek withdraw from the campaign sends a chilling signal to all voters, but specifically African Americans,” Steele said. “One can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race – in the 11th hour – a qualified black candidate like Kendrick Meek.”
Early voting in Florida is already underway. To date, more than 1.7 million Floridians have voted, which is approximately one third of all likely voters.
According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll 42 percent of likely voters surveyed supported Rubio, 35 percent supported Crist and 15 percent supported Meek. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
- CNN's John King, Mark Preston, Ed Henry, Jessica Yellin, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash and Candy Crowley contributed to this report
Until Meek can give some insight into why HE would be a good senator instead of taking every possible opportunity to name-call and trash on the other 2 candidates, I don't even consider him a candidate – just a disruption. Rubio isn't much better. Charlie Crist is in a class of his own and it would be a shame if Meek's continued presence in this race cost us Charlie's leadership.
This is how bribes come about.
Slick willy is right on course..
Does anyone wonder who is really running things?
Hummm more conniving by the Dems... Can't say that I really blame them seeing as Main Stream America are pissed at them for the time being. We were loud and clear about some crap that we did not want and this is what ya got.
so Meek would rather see an extremist right winger than do what is best for the Democratic Party. Makes me so glad I am a Crist supporter. Made the right choice. I wish this country was not one extreme or the other. What is wrong with somewhere in the middle. We sure need a third party.
Maybe Crist should drop out and endorse Meek.
This is a joke, right? It's politics, it's done ALL THE TIME. The party asks the one who has the swing vote in a three-way campaign to bow out for the better of the party - can you say RALPH NADER? ROSS PEROT?? It's not racist and it's not illegal. The candidate happened to be African-American or Black or whatever. Someone is making this into more than it is. That's just sad.
BTW, I'm not saying it's right, but the Party asked, the candidate said no, end of story. Bet the (R) wins now, with the (D) vote split.
More disgusting maneurvering by the DemocRATS.
Crist is a real work of art just like Arlen Spector of PA. He has no integrity and he should drop out.
Please do it Kendrick....Rubio is gonna win if you dont...do you want that ? or is your pride in the way.
I hope Meek wins. Its politics as usual. Its too bad Bill Clinton stooped to this level.
meeks should have dropped because he cannot win and only hurts his own party and the blue collar people he hops to serve...just like ralph nader getting our nation into war with eight years of loonie and cowardly george bush, meeks needs to take a long look at his personal goal;s, his ego and thics. selfish? yes. stubborn? yes. keep your face on the tube; i am moving to florida and you have lost credibility and respect, mr. meeks, just like raplh nader before you, and you have lost my vote for anything for all-time.
That's cool. Politics is so much easier when we let those in power do back-room deals and leave the voting public out of the equation.
Boy, these guys are oily.
Mr. Meek should continue to run for the senate. I would hope that people who watched the debates would see that he is the man for the job. He does not use those Republican code words like taxes, unpatriotic, etc. I did see the debate and there is no doubt in my mind how to vote.
I think the people of Florida will be unhappy with their Republican choice for the senate.
Yes but we can all rest comfortably knowing that the White House had nothing to do with this attempt at screwing the voters of Florida out of due process! Chicago tactics at their best!
Congrats to Meek
A Democrat with a backbone
He should replace Obama
it turns out this isn't true. according to everyone. why report this garbage?
*sigh* unfortunately Rubio will prolly win because neither one will get enough to beat him... but had 1 dropped for the good of the party they would prolly easily beat him. not saying crist or meek woulld be the better fo the two however the one with the best chances of winning should be the one to stay,.
Bill, why don't you ask Crist to step down? Or would that go against your good ol' boy agenda?
If true, this would be one of the most desparate and despicable acts ever to have been perpetrated in an election. Its potential for success would be minimal at best since there's no assurance that Meek's supporters would vote for Crist. Most, if not all would probably just sit out the election which would potentially hurt candidates for other offices. This, along with the tepid support of other Democrats by Obama should send a chill through the ranks of all Democratic candidates who sacrificed their reputations in support of Obama's policies. They're treated as expendable with little regard for their electoral well-being. I look forward to the day when people like Obama, the Clintons, and others of their ilk are voted out of office and become part of an embarrassing past that we can someday forget.
Did Bill Clinton ask the Democrat in Alaska to drop out and endorse Murkowski?
If not, why not? that too would likely defeat the TEA Party favorite Miller.
If you want AA`s to be OK with this, then apply it evenly in similar situations.
Bill Clinton is the wrong guy to deliver the message to Meek after his comments in the South Carolina primary but he could have delivered it to McAdams. should have sent Reggie Love.
Meeks is going to lose and Crist is a moderate. He should take the deal. In return Clinton, Crist, and the President would owe him. There are worse things than having the big dog on the block owing you a favor.
Be smart Meek. Demand Crist`s support (ealy endorsement, money, campaigning) when you run for the other Florids Senate seat.