Democrat Kendrick Meek reasserted on Friday that he was in Florida's three-way Senate race to stay, despite reports that he had been urged to withdraw in favor of Gov. Charlie Crist.
Meek took to the airwaves in the morning to deny reports that former President Clinton had urged Meek to withdraw so that Crist would stand a better chance of defeating Marco Rubio, the Republican nominee who is a "tea party" movement favorite.
"I told him I didn't have any thoughts about getting out of the race," Meek said of Clinton on ABC's "Good Morning America." "He didn't encourage me to get out of the race."
Meek made similar statements exonerating Clinton on the other morning shows and Clinton himself weighed in later in the day, reaffirming his support.
"We did talk last week following a rally in Orlando about the race and its challenges," Clinton stated. "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."
It may take three points to define a plane, but in politics, three-way races are notoriously unstable -- as the battle in Florida illustrates.
Crist, once a rising star in the GOP, was forced to run as an independent when it became clear he could not win his party's primary against Rubio, who is far more conservative, especially on social issues such as abortion rights and stem-cell research.
Meek, a Democratic congressman, won his primary against businessman Jeff Greene, setting up a three-way race among an African American Democrat, a moderate Republican running as an independent and a staunch conservative Republican supported by the tea party wing.
There have been numerous reports that top Democrats would have been happy to see Meek withdraw, clearing the way for Crist, who famously hugged President Obama, to gather the anti-Rubio vote in one column. Polls show Rubio with a solid lead over Crist, with Meek running a distant third.
Part of the rationale is also based on the arithmetic of the Senate, where the GOP is hoping to at least increase its influence and perhaps win a majority. The Florida seat is held by a Republican, and Crist has been careful to avoid saying with which party he would caucus during the organization of the post-election Senate. Two independents already caucus with the Democrats and are key members of the Democratic majority.
The Florida race would not be the first in which top Democrats, seeking to save the Senate, got involved in local races.
During the primaries, there were reports that White House aides had discussions about a job for Joe Sestak if he dropped his bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter, a fellow Democrat. Sestak went on to win the primary and is locked in a close race with Republican Pat Toomey.