(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
Would John King try to talk a bit slower? He has interesting comments but it is hard to follow as he seems to be racing.
It makes me change my vote cause I don't want Rubio
It only makes since! Majority of the Florida democrats are behind Alex Sink. Sad but it's true!
I voted for Kendrick Meek yesterday, something told me to vote for charile crist, and with crist so close. And if meek drops out before nov. 2. Then I been disenfranchise and want my vote for crist to be counted or allows revote.
Hard to believe that Clinton would try something like this. He just need to go and take obama, pelosi and reid with him. What was he going to to do if Meeks did indeed drop out, hand out cigars?
why doesn't Meek drop out!? It is crazy for him to continue when he obviously can't win and it makes a lot more sense from Crist to win than Rubio.
If Mr. Meek was truly caring about the democratic party, he would heed Mr. Clinton's advice, and drop out of the race. He has no hope of winning the race. By dropping out he would free people to vote for Gov. Crist, who would be much better for the democrats in dealing with future legislation, than would Mr. Rubio. If Mr. Meek had a chance of winning then I would say stay in the race. But he doesn't, and I can't even imagine Mr. Rubio as a U.S. Senator.
I think Kendrick Meek is a fine person however, I will have to vote for Charlie Crist in an attempt to stop Marco Rubio from willing the seat.
This ongoing pattern of Democrats, the White House or Mr. Bill trying to talk candidates out of running, either by giving them White House jobs or just to get them out of the way is an abomination and is a symbol of the games going on in DC.
Hopefully we'll elect a new breed of leaders who aren't so self centered and arrogant.
I guess the offer made to Mr. Meek in compensation for dropping out wasn't sufficient.
Wow. I live in Florida, I'm a Democrat that volunteered for the Obama campaign. And I'm still happy with President Obama. All that said, I'm a little amazed that President Clinton did this. I think he's right, I think the only way to defeat Rubio is for Crist and Meek to unite, Meek drop out. I've already sent in my ballot and I voted for Crist because he's the only one who can beat Rubio. Sorry Kendrick.
As a former president he should butt out of all this campaigning. You don't hear from the Bush's or Carter on these issues. Clinton and Obama are destroying the integrity of the office. Obama appearing on all these mickey mouse shows is taking the Presidency to new low's, and making it a new definition of smallness. What a disgrace both of them are.....
......Happy Meek stood by his principals and stayed in race, win or lose. Didn't accept the Obama-Clinton Bribes. .....God bless him...
I totally agree that Meeks needs to drop out and it would behoove him to for his political future so he can mature and help this election by losing the battle to win the war.
Meek should drop out of the race by saturday Oct. 30 and throw his support behind Crist. Such a move would win him
a huge amount of respect from progressive voters. I think that Crist can be pulled closer to the middle. Rubio is a right
wing clown who will only deliver negative results,
Say it ain't so, not brother Bill...
The "contributed to this report" list is longer than the report. 3 sentences, 5 contributors. I'd like to know who collaborated on the last sentence please.
Duuuhhhhh! It's politics stupid.... Did you expect anything else??????? It looks like the democRATS are the racial one's, again!
That would have been a smart move, Bill Clinton knows how to get it working for Dems, of course Kendrick is still in the race which means extremist Rubio has got his chances of winning, unless Crist pulls an upset win.
Bill Clinton might be right Mr. Meeks. I am a democratic and we dont need the Teaparty Rubio as yall senator. Sometimes you have to give up something so that you may get the best candidate that will win against Rubio and thats Christ. It's just not your seaon Meek and time right now! God has something for you even better and just be patient and hang on in there too! Who would you rather work with Rubio or Christ? I rest my case sir!
While Bill is right on this issue what he is asking is wrong. That's the Clinton's for you. Vote for US and we will remember you (yeah right). Poor Meeks had to learn the hard way. The Clinton's have NO further use for you. Good-bye.
President Clinton is correct and Meek should have been a team player an pulled out because now he giving the election away to Marco Rubio because he has no chance to win. You have to put your country ahead of your party and your ego.
While Bill is right on this issue what he is asking is wrong. That's the Clinton's for you. Vote for US and we will remember you (yeah right). Poor Meek had to learn the hard way. The Clinton's have NO further use for you. Good-bye.
Talk about demcorats eating their own. Ha ha CHOMP CHOMP HA HA
Really? Never trust a Republican I always say. Whose to say Christ would keep his work if he won. In any case there is no difference between Rubio and Christ so it doesn't really matter which one wins. Christ and Meek will split the not crazy vote and the Rubio will win with the crazy vote.