A month ago, some political pundits predicted that Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D-FL) bid for Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senate nomination was, by all accounts, a long shot. He was behind by double-digits in numerous polls, while skeptics doubted his ability to perform in the general election. His opponent, billionaire Jeff Greene, invested millions of dollars into an incessant stream of self-funded television ads and statewide mailings. And at the time, the White House appeared lukewarm in its embrace of Meek’s candidacy, slow to provide support despite constant pleas from the candidate who initially supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary.
Flash forward, and the tide changed substantially. Over the past couple of weeks, Democratic support rallied behind Meek, with eleventh-hour stumps and fundraising appeals by President Obama and former President Clinton. That was the tipping point that put Meek over the top, resulting in the Miami-area Congressman’s primary night beat down of Greene 57% to 31%.
Despite Greene’s 5-to-1 spending advantage, the 43-year old son of retired Congresswoman Carrie Meek (D) managed to pull off a clear upset victory Tuesday in a race marred by nasty accusations from both campaigns. Greene constantly portrayed Meek as “corrupt” while Meek accused the billionaire of attempting to “buy the election” and profiting from investments in the recent housing collapse. Greene spent $25 million of his own money and has promised to contribute to Meek’s general election campaign in the coming weeks.
Meek heads into a hotly contested three-way general election against Republican candidate and conservative movement rock star Marco Rubio and popular Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched parties to Independent status upon realizing stiff opposition from Rubio in the early stages of the GOP primary. The Democratic nominee now faces an uphill fundraising battle with only $2 million in the bank – against Crist’s reported $8 million on hand and Rubio’s $4.5 million.
In the days ahead, Meek’s toughest competition may come from Florida Governor Charlie Crist. In an interview with Politic365.com, Northwestern University political science professor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto explained why she thinks Crist is the one to beat come November.
“Let’s not count Charlie Crist out so soon. A few reasons: He has won three statewide elections. He scored brownie points with Florida teachers. He was able to play the hero role in the wake of the BP oil spill and with hurricane season still in full swing he will be able to further establish the picture of the leader-statesman. And, race will likely be a factor. Among old school conservative white Democrats, Meek’s non-white status may turn them to the white candidate.”
On the heels of Congressman Meek’s primary win, state Senator Frederica Wilson (D) clinched Meek’s safely Democratic 17th District House Congressional seat.
With round one behind him, Meek now has 70 days to help convince Floridians that he – not Crist or Rubio – is the true candidate to represent their interests in the U.S. Senate.