ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:
The Florida Senate race was thrown into turmoil Thursday night when it became clear that President Bill Clinton had encouraged the Democrat, Rep. Kendrick Meek, to drop out of the race.
Meek has been locked in a three-way race with Republican Marco Rubio, a tea party favorite, and Independent Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate who left the Republican party early in 2010 rather than face Rubio in a primary.
Two sources confirmed to ABC’s Jake Tapper that Clinton had encouraged Meek to drop out of the race. Politico reported that Meek was close to agreeing to drop out. But Meek’s spokesman issued a statement after reading the Politico report that denied he was ever ready to withdraw.
"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,” said Meek campaign manager Abe Dyk.
Rubio has led in polls recently, followed by Crist and then Meek. Crist is thought to have a better shot at defeating Rubio in a two-way race because he could pull Democratic and Independent votes.
Crist has tried to appeal to Democratic voters, arguing he has a better shot to defeat Rubio and head off conservatives in Washington. But the argument has taken some political yoga by Crist, who was on John McCain’s short list for Vice President in 2008 and has moderated his positions on social issues like abortion.
Clinton had been an ardent supporter of Meek’s, campaigning several times for him. Meek had supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008.