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Meek (Finally) Endorses Clinton

After several days of confusion, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) has thrown his support to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign -- providing the New York Senator with another brick in her already solid foundation in the Sunshine State.

While Meek's endorsement is important, it did not come easily to Clinton.

Late last week, the Miami Herald reported that Meek was backing Clinton, and, rightly, cast it as a major get for the New York Senator's campaign in the state. But, Meek denied he had made a decision and sent a letter to the Clinton campaign telling them that they were not authorized to use his name or likeness as an endorser. He did not, however, ask for the Herald story to be corrected.

Then, this morning the Clinton campaign sent out a press release touting Meek's official endorsement. "Senator Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidates with the perfect blend of leadership, talent and intellect to lead our nation in a new direction," Meek said.

Putting the weirdness of the last four days aside, Meek's endorsement is critical to Clinton in the state. He is a member of The Fix's Florida Endorsement Elite thanks to his stewardship of two recent statewide campaigns -- Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) 2004 presidential effort in Florida and a class size ballot initiative in 2002. (Watch this space tomorrow morning for the Florida Republican Endorsement Elite.) Meek is also the most prominent young African-American leader in the state and his choice of Clinton over Obama is also a symbolic victory for the New York Senator. (Meek's mother, Carrie, who served in Congress from 1992 to 2002, has donated $1,000 to Obama's campaign.)

Meek's endorsement lends further strength to Clinton's campaign in Florida where she (and her campaign staff) have focused considerable attention over the past months. In addition to Meek, Clinton also has the backing of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- a key player in the massively populated Broward County and another member of The Fix Endorsement Elite. (Obama is no slouch in the endorsement game; he's got Rep. Robert Wexler on his side as well as leading Florida money man Kirk Wagar.)

With the Sunshine State presidential primary set for Jan. 29, the Clinton campaign may well see Florida as a firewall in the event she fails to live up to expectations in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. As the frontrunner, any slippage by Clinton in that gauntlet of votes could turn Florida into a make or break event for her campaign.

At the moment, Clinton has reason to feel good about her chances in the state. A Zogby International poll conducted earlier this month put her in the lead with 36 percent, 20 points ahead of Obama and 25 points clear of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). A Quinnipiac survey in the field in late May showed similar results; Clinton ahead with 34 percent followed by Obama at 16 percent, former Vice President Al Gore at 13 percent and Edwards at 11 percent. An Insider Advantage survey showed the race far closer with Clinton at 40 percent and Obama at 35 percent.

Predicting how the changes in the nominating calendar will impact the choosing of each party's nominee is nearly impossible at the moment. Do Iowa and New Hampshire matter more or less in this new world? Can any candidate afford to play in all of the nearly two dozen states that will vote between Jan. 14 and Feb. 5? And, if not, how do they pick and choose where they put their time and resources?

On Thursday we'll unveil a new project called "The Fast Track Campaign" aimed at trying to find answers to these questions. Stay tuned.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 13, 2007; 12:17 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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