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Throughout this race, the conventional wisdom has been that Rep. Kendrick Meek, the likely Democratic nominee for this year's Florida Senate election, would be crushed whether the Republicans nominated Marco Rubio or Charlie Crist. Recently, though, some have been reevaluating this race, as general election polls show Meek proving surprisingly competitive, especially against Rubio. Meek is still the likely underdog, especially in what is likely to be a Republican-trending year, but a close finish or an outright win isn't out of the question.

On Monday, Meek will boost that impression by turning in 130,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. What is remarkable is that very few candidates qualify for the ballot this way; you can get on a primary ballot for just $10,000, so most candidates simply opt to pay that.

On Monday, the Miami Democrat and his wife, Leslie, will sign his U.S. Senate campaign's last petitions and deliver them to the Miami-Dade Elections office. Meek needs 112,476 to qualify for the U.S. Senate race, and his campaign says it'll exceed that number, delivering more than 130,000 signed petitions.

"I thought it was very, very important that the people of the state of Florida place my name on the ballot to be the next U.S. senator,'' Meek said of his decision to seek signatures rather than pay the roughly $10,000 filing fee. "And I thought it was important for me to listen to the needs of Florida, from Escambia County to Monroe County. I knew it would make me a better candidate and a better senator.''

Meek's campaign says he'll become the first statewide candidate to qualify for the ballot by petition, if the signatures are found valid. His campaign manager earlier this month told reporters that the campaign would pay the fee if there is a dispute over the validity of the signatures, though it does not expect to have to do so.

Besides historical bragging rights, the petition drive has given Meek free media -- newspaper stories, radio and TV spots -- at a time when the battle between his Republican rivals for the Senate seat is drawing national attention and overshadowing his quest.

...

"I wasn't known as well as I needed to be known and we still have more work to do on that,'' Meek said, noting he spent a lot of his time north of Interstate 4 in Orlando, where he was virtually unknown.

The petition drive has also allowed him to meet thousands of voters and amass a data base of more than 130,000 potential supporters.

Meek also has proved a surprisingly good fundraiser, with $3.4 million on hand, compared with $2.1 million for Rubio and $7.6 million for Crist.

This race clearly should not be written off. Meek is proving to be a surprisingly effective candidate and especially if Rubio is seen as overly right-wing, Meek stands a decent chance of holding together Democrats and independents.

Meek's biggest challenge is going to be enthusing Democratic voters, who are disengaged. From Public Policy Polling:

Rubio is ahead anyway for two reasons. First, those polled report having voted for McCain by a margin of 4 points in 2008 when Barack Obama won the state by 3. That 7 point shift in who's planning to vote this year is similar to what we found for the recent elections in New Jersey and Massachusetts. (There was a much larger Democratic turnout drop off in Virginia.)

The other reason Rubio's ahead is that McCain voters are more excited about him so far than Obama's voters are about Meek. 23% of Obama voters are undecided compared to 13% of McCain voters. That's really not a problem for Meek at this point more than seven months away from the election- the Crist/Rubio feud has been sucking all the air out of the race and really the best thing for Meek's chances at this point is for the Crist collapse to continue.

Floridians who voted Democratic in 2008 are not abandoning the party, but do need to be reenergized. That's a lot easier said than done and it hasn't happened in the last few major races. But if the electorate that shows up this fall mirrors the folks who came out last time Meek will probably win.

The other - major - challenge for Meek is going to be countering poor impressions of HCR among seniors and retirees.

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida voters dislike the new healthcare law so much that President Barack Obama and the state's top Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, are paying a hefty political price, according to a new survey and analysis by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

Only 34 percent of Florida voters support the new law while 54 percent are against it, according to the poll. Opposition is significantly strong among two crucial blocs: those older than 65 and voters with no party affiliation. Seniors disfavor the bill by a 65-25 percent margin, while independents oppose the law 62-34.

Still, for Meek to gather 130,000 signatures is significant. It shows a high degree of political savvy, introduces him to large numbers of voters, and suggests that he will put up a solid fight in November.

Originally posted to liberalpragmatist on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 10:57 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've suggested to the W.H. (4+ / 0-)

    ... (If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound) ...

    that they provide speaking/oratory training for candidates in important races. This was after the demise of Creigh Deeds in Virginia. They should really take me up on that

  •  Meek needs more than 130K signatures (0+ / 0-)

    If the threshold is 112.5K signatures to get on the ballot he probably needs to submit more like 175K-200K signatures. The board of elections will inevitably throw out many of those 130K signatures since not all will be valid.

  •  Meek does have some things going for him... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sagittarius, Wanda517, aoeu

    He can run pro-stimulus and pro-HCR which I believe will only gain in popularity the farther away we get from the heated politics of it.  

    I still think Crist is going to come out of the GOP primary.  I think Crist should use Meek, build him up to be a formidable candidate.  Right now the GOP voters believe that whoever comes out of the Republican Primary is a virtual shoo-in come the general.  I think this belief hurts Crist, because obviously the Republican base would want the hard core ideologue in such an instance.  However if Meek was polling strong against Rubio, it might be easier for Christ to steal back some support from Rubio as Republicans might figure to take the more of a sure thing with Crist than risk ending up with Meek should they choose Rubio.  

    Meeks needs to spend that money to make more money.  He needs to focus on GOTV and should maybe start going up on television in very targeted markets and on very targeted shows.  He needs to introduce himself and frame himself before the GOP candidates turn their attention to him.  First impressions are key, and there is little doubt he'll be framed as "A Pelosi Liberal" by Rubio/Crist, and will need to push back against that, though he can't hide from his voting record.  I guess he could say "he was representing his district and their wishes" but as a Statewide Senator he'd do what he believes is right for Florida regardless of party affiliation.  He should make the case that he is a Floridian before he is a Democrat.  

    Meek vs Rubio would be a race to claim the middle ground.  Meek should be trying to stake claim to the moderate middle now.  If Crist wins, he'll have a stranglehold here, but I don't think Meek could beat Crist no matter what he does, he has to build his campaign as if he's going to face Rubio.    

    Politics is like playing Asteroids - You go far enough to the left and you end up on the right. Or vice-versa.

    by Jonze on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:18:52 AM PDT

  •  Meek 19% chance of winning. It's Crist or Rubio. (0+ / 0-)

    Take your pick. Meek is simply going to be the punching bag for either one of them.

    Crist can't win the GOP nomination but he could win the Senate seat vs. Rubio as a Democrat if Meek agrees to drop out in favor of Crist, a much lesser of the two evils scenario for Democrats. Crist promises to never support a filibuster and to vote to end filibuster and Democrats run him as their candidate or he can run as Independent who agrees to caucus with Democrats to them majority and vote against filibuster.

    That gives Democrats a pick up seat to hold majority and a vote to end filibuster. A good days work in FL.

    •  Won't happen. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdmslle

      The filing deadline for getting on the ballot comes before the GOP primary.  On Fox News today, Crist ruled out running as an independent.  

      I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

      by psychodrew on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:26:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then it's Senator Rubio. Meek is not a factor. (0+ / 0-)
        •  wrong (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TheUnknown285, mdmslle

          as usual; you don't know anything about what you try to bloviate about

          i don't mind if arlen remains the senior senator from pennsylvania IF the voters in the DEMOCRATIC primary choose him BUT until then...........

          by primaryarlen on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:43:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Your wet-blanket quititude (0+ / 0-)

          is just SO inspiring. We were told this time in 2006 in ohio that Mike DeWine was going to be re-elected, so suck it up. We didn't. We elected Sherrod Brown.

          Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate http://www.jenniferbrunner.com/

          by anastasia p on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 12:47:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Different times, different places. (0+ / 0-)

            Have you seen Kendrick Meek speak?  He's no Sherrod Brown.

            I'm not saying that he doesn't have a chance.  He certainly does.  He has money and the Florida GOP is in the midst of an all out civil war.  It's just that I think that it's going to take a talented politician, someone with good communication skills, to win this election.

            I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

            by psychodrew on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 05:30:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  nonsense (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hungrycoyote, TheUnknown285, mdmslle

      meek CAN beat rubio BUT not crist

      i don't mind if arlen remains the senior senator from pennsylvania IF the voters in the DEMOCRATIC primary choose him BUT until then...........

      by primaryarlen on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:44:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ask Hillary and Giuliani about sure things (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TheUnknown285

      The beauty of Deans 50 State strategy and helping Democrats even when things don't look good is that many times things happen that can put the Democrat into office over a Sure-thing Republican Win,Here's the secret of the GOP they have been doing The 50 State Strategy ever since Reagan and their latest victory was Sen.Brown when the Democrats believed they had a Sure-thing win there.

  •  I'm worried about Kendrick Meek. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rian90

    I think it's going to take a gifted politician to win in Florida this year and I don't know that Meek has the stuff.  He seems to have gotten to where he is by riding his mother's coattails.  His appearances on TV haven't been very impressive.  I hope he wins, because I don't want Marco Rubio to be our next senator.

    I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

    by psychodrew on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:25:12 AM PDT

  •  MB said pictures of candidate are important... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murasaki, hungrycoyote

     title=

    Politics is like playing Asteroids - You go far enough to the left and you end up on the right. Or vice-versa.

    by Jonze on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:25:48 AM PDT

  •  *If* Crist wins the primary, (0+ / 0-)

    I would imagine him to be in the same position politically as Lincoln Chafee after winning the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2006.

    Economic Left/Right: -5.25; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

    by joshc123 on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:27:53 AM PDT

  •  From Crist/Rubio debate on Fox Sunday: (0+ / 0-)

    Snippet from TPM report:

    For his part, Rubio showed little willingness to embrace the center on anything, including policies and programs near and dear to the hearts of Floridians. Rubio called the Ryan budget "a great place to start" when it comes to reforming Medicare and Social Security.

    Rubio suggested he would support raising the age when social security benefits kick in, as the Ryan budget calls for, and said any debate about the future of the program needs to include discussions about slashing cost of living increases in Social Security payments.

    This time, it was Crist's turn to balk.

    "The idea of having a higher age [for benefits] really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians," he said. Crist said he would focus eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" in Medicare and Social Security if he is elected.

    Something else Meek can run against him on.  Meek can be the pro-Stimulus, pro-HCR, pro-Social Security candidate.  I don't know too many seniors who like the idea of raising the age and and slashing cost of living increases.  

    Crist pivoted and seems to be fully embracing being a moderate during the debate, instead slamming Rubio for being a phony ideologue.    

    Politics is like playing Asteroids - You go far enough to the left and you end up on the right. Or vice-versa.

    by Jonze on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 01:00:25 PM PDT

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