Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Kendrick Meek won't drop out, and why it doesn't matter even if he does

Ever since this article appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week, there's been a lot of chatter about whether Kendrick Meek will drop out of the Senate race, presumably to support Charlie Crist and help him defeat Marco Rubio.  I am not worried about this, for several reasons.

First of all, I seriously doubt Meek is going anywhere.  I disagree with him - strongly - on almost all of his policy positions, but I have to respect the hard work he has put into this race.  Meek qualified by petition, a significant accomplishment in any race but even more impressive considering the number of signatures needed for a statewide race.  

Meek is not a guy who is running just for vanity [cough cough Jeff Greene cough cough] or to prove a point, this is a guy who is running because he truly believes in what he's doing and the causes for which he is fighting.  Like I said, I don't agree with him but he's a true believer and I grant a lot more respect for that than I do Charlie's flip-flopping pander-monium (see what I did there?  A little wordplay with "pandemonium" using "pander," Charlie's favorite word.  I'm surprised he hasn't trademarked it yet.  OK, I'm done patting myself on the back for a semi-clever pun).

Anyone who watched the last debate can see that Meek is serious about his campaign and very passionate about his beliefs.  I just don't see him pulling a Nick Saban ("No, I swear I'm not leaving this team!").  The Meek campaign's statement denying any intention to drop out sounded absolutely serious to me, Bill Clinton is scheduled to campaign with him in Central Florida later this month, and Obama himself is recording a radio ad for Meek.  No way a former president and a current president would waste their time or political capital on a candidate who couldn't convince them he was committed to the race.

It's important to consider what Meek stands to gain or lose from staying in versus dropping out.  I'm not sure what sort of plum appointment he could be offered that would really be worthwhile.  Meek doesn't really have the resume for the economic advisory type positions (of course, I never expected a tax cheat like Tim Geithner would get appointed either, so I could be wrong), there's no open seats in Florida to which he could be appointed, so what's left?  An ambassadorship to some itty-bitty country that most of us can't pronounce or find on a map without Google?  I just don't see Meek going for any of this.  

Now, contrast that with the benefits of staying in the race.  Meek has earned nationwide press attention from this race (even though most of the attention has been on Marco vs. Charlie, Meek's name still gets mentioned in the articles), and has earned respect from a lot of people for the dedicated and ethical way he has campaigned.  When compared to Crist's daily changes of opinion, Meek looks even more principled.  If Meek continues through the election and loses gracefully, he will be in a great position to run for some office in 2012.  Keep in mind that Charlie Crist is our governor right now due in no small part to his past strategy of running a "graceful loser" statewide campaigns to help build name recognition before the election where he actually won.

The other issue here is, if Meek does drop out, does it do anything to change the result?  I doubt it.  One of the big reasons is that time has simply run out to make a difference in this election.  Not only are the ballots printed, but absentee ballots have been mailed,  many people have already voted, and early voting starts next week.

Remember, there are no campaign materials allowed inside the polling places.  For Meek's withdrawal to actually benefit Crist, Meek would have to drop out, have a press conference to get as much media attention as possible, immediately and enthusiastically endorse Crist, and hope the media carried the story more than just that day.  Again, it only works if Meek sincerely and loudly endorses Crist.  Any wavering or hesitation, and the media is going to tear it apart as a cynical political maneuver and the voters will not trust it.  Frankly, after a year of Meek loudly criticizing Flip Flop Charlie, I doubt Meek's supporters are inclined to support Crist no matter what is said now.

The Crist campaign would also have to launch an expensive new voter outreach plan to mention that Meek was no longer in the race, bombarding voters with mail, robocalls, TV and radio ads, as well as people stationed at the polls during early voting and on election day.  As the campaigns all heat up in the final weeks of this election season, the fight for attention will be increasingly difficult, and every dollar and every minute spent telling voters not to vote for Meek is a dollar and a minute that can't be spent convincing voters to vote for Crist.  Yes, Charlie is still sitting on a big ol' pile of cash, so he theoretically should have the resources to do this, but any campaign consultant worth their salt can tell you that it is difficult to convey multiple messages at the same time, especially late in a campaign.

Honestly, if Meek does drop out, I expect that some of his supporters will turn to Crist, but I also expect that many of them will lose enthusiasm for this year's election and consider staying home.  The Republicans are looking like a lock for the Cabinet races (knock on wood!), many of the  state's Congressional races are getting settled (Cook Report just downgraded Grayson's chances of re-election from "Toss Up" to "Lean Republican"), and if Scott manages to widen his narrow lead over Sink, then there just won't be any top-of-the-ticket races left to entice the Democrat faithful to show up at the polls.  There isn't anyone out there who is bold enough to say that every Meek vote would definitely go to Crist, and I've seen a number of other commentators remark that the most likely effect of a Meek withdrawal from the race would be a depression of the black voter turnout.   

What do you think?  


  1. I agree whole heartedly. I was never concerned as I heard those predictions of Meek dropping out. Plus, I saw a poll that had Rubio over 50%, so it doesn't matter how many other people are in the race.

  2. Yes, those latest poll #s are a lovely sight, aren't they?

  3. That's the oddest rumor I've heard yet. Why would the candidate whose character is impeccable and can't have the state's terrible economic numbers hung solely on him (since he is one of many federal Congressmen and CharLIE is the state governor and sticks out like a sore thumb) drop out in favor of a corrupt flip-flopping joke who's a multi-job killer and is losing votes on a daily basis? Hasn't it always been the other way around? And I don't think Meek is actually losing very many votes himself. He certainly hasn't done anything stupid or obvious to cause that. Marco's been taking votes nearly entirely from CharLIE during this recent and still-currently-happening jump in the polls. Also, Kendrick will get many votes on election day no matter what due to one thing you didn't mention--his position on the ballot. He's right below Rubio and is listed as a Democrat. Many of that ilk who do turn out, especially in South Florida, are going to vote as they always have. They're not going to look way down past all these unknown names to try and find CharLIE. It's the old routine: vote Democrat and move on to the next race. The smart ones who vote Republican and move on will definitely be more plentiful anyway, maybe by quite a bit. Polls are showing that. Oh, and if Bill Clinton is really coming here, there's some more votes for Marco which he won't have to pay or physically campaign for!


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