DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Former President Bill Clinton has already helped Rep. Kendrick Meek raise money he needs to run a Senate campaign. Now, a week before the primary, he's rallying Florida voters to pull the congressman back ahead of billionaire Jeff Greene.
At the first of three stops Monday, Clinton was met with a roaring crowd of about 1,200 in a stiflingly hot gym.
"I love Kendrick Meek. I'd be here for him if I was the only vote he had in the entire country, but I also believe with all my heart that he should be the next United States senator from Florida," Clinton said.
For more than a year, Meek was the likely nominee. Then Greene, who made millions in real estate before topping billionaire status by betting against the housing market and cashing in when it collapsed, entered the race on the final day possible. [See where Meek's campaign cash comes from.]
Even if Meek makes it out of the primary, he'd have a challenge ahead in November.
Republican Marco Rubio is liked by conservatives and former Gov. Charlie Crist is seeking to draw Democratic support after leaving the GOP and running as an independent. Also, there seems to be a backlash against Democrats because of some of the programs pushed through by the Obama administration and Congress.
Clinton told the Broward County audience not to worry about that.
"The Republicans have a very simple message: We gave them a year-and-a-half to fix the mess we made," Clinton said, adding that it's OK for people to be angry over the nation's challenges, but that doesn't mean they should shoot themselves in the foot by giving up on Democrats. "Whenever you made a decision that was important when you were mad, there's an 80 percent chance you made a mistake."
The race is now tight after Greene spent millions of his fortune on commercials touting himself as a businessman and job creator while criticizing Meek for being a career politician.
Clinton, who has held five fundraisers for Meek, said his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would also be supporting the congressman if she was allowed.
"Kendrick is a very close friend of Hillary's and mine. As a matter of fact, the only reason you're stuck with me today, is the secretary of state and the secretary of defense are the only two people in the president's Cabinet who cannot participate in politics," Clinton said. "But I did get a call last night telling me I better give a good speech for Kendrick."
He also praised some of Meek's work in his nearly eight years in Congress including taking a leadership role in the creation of a mortgage fraud task force and fighting against offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
"He's the only person you can vote for who's actually ever gotten anything done in Washington," said Clinton. "And he ain't been around enough to be too messed up on all the craziness about Washington."
Meek was a Florida Highway Patrol trooper assigned to protect then Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay when he first met Clinton, who was then governor of Arkansas. Meek and the Clintons have supported each other since.
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