Meek tries to beat back Crist-Reid chatter
By Felicia Sonmez
Rep. Kendrick Meek's (D-Fla.) appearance at Tuesday's Senate Democratic caucus luncheon had been on the schedule for a month.
It was a stroke of bad luck, then, that on the morning of Meek's appearance, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with one of Meek's rivals, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I), in which Crist revealed that he's spoken with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) by phone twice over the past several weeks.
Crist, who has been making overtures to Florida Democrats in his bid to become the state's next senator, did not indicate whether he and Reid discussed the possibility that he might caucus with Senate Democrats should he get elected.
In an interview with The Fix shortly after he gave his five-minute address to Senate Democrats, Meek said that he hadn't asked Reid about his conversations with Crist, but charged that the governor "is trying to put a perception out that he has an ongoing working relationship with the Leader." He added that given that Crist is a sitting governor, it's only natural that the leader of the Senate would respond if he calls.
"But if the governor is making it a part of his political campaign strategy," Meek added, "I think that's inappropriate and I don't think that reflects well on the governor." The four-term Democrat also pointed to Reid's support for his bid, noting that the majority leader has maxed out in contributions and "has made a number of charitable comments" about his campaign.
Reid, for his part, said in a press conference several hours after the luncheon that he'd only "placed one call to Governor Crist," and "that conversation was several months ago." Reid said he hadn't asked Crist whether he'd caucus with Senate Democrats, and that the conversation was focused on issues related to Florida -- the "third-most populous state in the country."
The Crist caucusing issue aside -- and it's a major issue to put aside -- Meek insisted that he feels good about where he stands in advance of the state's Aug. 24 primary against billionaire Jeff Greene.
The Congressman said he told Senate Democrats that recent polling shows more voters now view Greene unfavorably than favorably and that he is ahead in the race despite the fact that "I haven't even taken a 15-second radio ad out yet." (Greene has spent nearly $6 million of his own money -- primarily on television ads across the state.)
One untapped resource for Meek remains the White House's potential involvement in the race; the Wall Street Journal story quoted an unnamed White House official as saying that Vice President Biden plans to campaign for Meek soon.
Meek said that he learned of Biden's potential involvement in the race from the Wall Street Journal article but noted that he spoke with the White House "early on" about its involvement and that he's "definitely encouraged by seeing that it's on the vice president's dance card."
Meek has already benefited from a series of fundraisers and appearances from former President Bill Clinton -- payback for his work on behalf of then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008.
The central question for Meek -- assuming he wins the nomination -- is whether the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (or some other outside organization aligned with Democrats) commits to spending on ads in the state.
That's a multi-million dollar proposition and given the current state of play, national Democrats may be stretched too thin to make a go of it for Meek.
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