(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
It took six of CNN's top staff members to come up with this story?
Shame on them!!!! If they don't think they can win on their own, why run in the first place. Clinton should know better. Crist is a traitor to EVERYONE, anyway.
I am democrate and have voted for them all the time. At present we democrate have an unique opportunity to defete Republican candidate for the sanate seat. We can defeate by voting for Charlie Crist. If this is the only choice for us in Florida please let it be. It is good for Floradian democrates. I do understand thatit is difficult for the democrate like me not to vote for democrate. All other candidates please go ahead and vote democratic candidates.
I hope you understand.
Hey, Kendrick, why not tell Bill Clinton to "BUTT OUT!!" He's had his turn and he doesn't want you to have yours. How so Democratic of him.
Twice now, he's tried to help Obama weasel his way around. Neither of them have shame. Come on, Tuesday. . .
Hello Mr. Meek– Seriously! You've only got 15% of the vote accordingly to the polls. You aren't going to win. If Charlie Crist can beat Rubio if you drop out, please do it. I'm not a big Crist fan– but OMG, NOT Rubio, please!!!
Poor Meek.... The IRS and every other agency will be instructed to come down on him by this administration. The Dems are a bunch of slime balls! Instead of supporting their candidate, they try and force him out for an Independent that has been known to switch sides depending on the way the wind is blowing... How sad they have become the party of desperation...
Yes it s a good idea for meek to drop out to support christ
President Obama chould really shake up the political landscape by proposing that the post office add payday lending to its list of
services. This would give the giant network a new life force. The government could allow the hard working low wage earners as well as many who consider themselves middle class a chance to enjoy the same breaks many of the big banks are receving.
The loans must be repaid and the government would make money @ maybe 20% yearly interest. The rates would be much lower than the 500% currently being charged by many of the loan shark payday lenders. This would help the economy by leaving more money in the hands of the working poor and lower middle class who will surely spend it. The current set up is only allowing the rich to get richer on the backs of the working poor and the lower middle class.
How does this affect Alex Snitker, The People's Choice and T.E.A. candidate on the Libertarian ticket? no-show Rubio Refuses to debate Snitker and the media blackouts of Snitker from all sources is primarily due to Rubio "threatening" not to show up!
Pit a Taxed Enough Already against a GOP, the GOP will Lose. Even Christ rallied the media to open their biased and bought distribution channels of propaganda to Snitker...LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE...
Marco Rubio does not belong to the tea party. Marco Rubio simply said it was time to send real conservatives to Washington. Marco Rubio also said he supports the Arizona immigration laws. That does not mean he is a Tea Party member. I hate CNN.
yo, i am a black man and i won't vote for you, drop out of the race already ..please ...so crist could have a chance. The polls say you only 15% , marco rubio 42%. you just waiting people's time .you really think florida (whites ) are gonna vote for you.
Talk about desperate!!! Why weren't the Democrats will to negotiate with Conservatives like this 2 years ago? Or even 1 year ago??? Too late now slick willie
And what was the enticement for Meek? The job that Sestak turned down?
Just more power at any cost. It tells you loads about who and what the current Democratic Party leaders really are.
Ol slick willy, still trying to screw somebody....gotta love the liberal's....pathetic!!!
To quote former Vice President Dick Cheney: "So?" This happens all the time in politics. It"s a little shady, but... so?
Smells like a dirty trick to me.
crist is sleaze like spector anything to win switch parties and try to deal his way in office let the voters put in the man they want crist should drop out
Kendrick Meek, your only purpose in life should be to stay in this race and therefore help elect Marco Rubio senator. Thank you.
This man's campaign is the biggest joke in the world's history of politics. Only in America would a man of so little intelligence be nominated for any position in creating legislature. It seems that with the advent of Obama and Palin, any idiot now can run for office and make a complete mockery of our already very troubled system.
If this was about what was good for the state, Meek would have dropped out. Too bad millions of Floridian voices will be snuffed out because of one man's ego.
I can't wait for Tuesday to come and go! Crist is an independant and needs to run like one. Meek is my democratic candidate and I'm tired of folks trying to make this a two party race. If we lose the seat to Rubio because the democrats don't vote for Meek in high numbers, so be it.I will never support Crist, the Republican turned Independant. He needs to find a new job fooling other people.
I kept hoping that Kendrick would drop out months or weeks ago. He and Charlie will split the moderate vote and put Wingnut Rubio in the Senate. Kendrick has absolutely no chance of winning.
Last week, I voted for Charlie, the first time I've voted against a Democrat in 25 years...
I am not a fan of Billy "boy" Clinton and I hope Meeks doesn't drop out. Crist can go jump along with Clinton and Obama. Jerks.