Rumors have been flying lately that former Pres. Bill Clinton urged Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop his bid for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat in order to deprive the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio of a win next week. Also in the race is Gov. Charlie Crist, who was a Republican until he appeared headed for defeat in the G.O.P. primary. Crist jumped ship in August, and became an independent. Clinton today issued a statement denying the rumors. Sort of.
The Crist-Rubio rivalry is a proxy for the strife between Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the latter of whom has sought to undermine McConnell's leadership by supporting challengers to candidates endorsed by the Kentucky senator.
If elected, Rubio would be beholden to the Tea Party cabal that will surround DeMint, who is determined to thwart the Obama administration's agenda. Crist, on the other hand, has been more friendly toward Obama, famously giving the president a hug at a rally called to celebrate he administration's stimulus plan.
About an hour ago, Clinton issued a statement saying that he had never urged Meek to drop out of the race. Still, from the wording of the statement, it seems that the topic was discussed. Judge for yourself:
Kendrick Meek is my close friend. I have supported his campaign from the beginning, though our relationship extends far beyond politics. We did talk last week following a rally in Orlando about the race and it's challenges. I didn't ask Kendrick to leave the race, nor did Kendrick say that he would. I told him that how he proceeds was his decision to make and that I would support him regardless.
Over the years, I have watched Kendrick become an able, effective public servant with the strength to fight for what he believes and the common sense to work with people of different parties and points of view. I still believe he could be the best Senator to help Florida and America emerge from the current crisis and build a growing middle class economy.