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Florida, again

Friday, October 29th, 2010



Yet again, Florida is buttressing its well-earned reputation for high-stakes suspense and low-rent politics. The story du jour concerns the backstage maneuvers in the Senate race, a three-way roundelay starring tea-party Republican Marco Rubio, former Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist (the current lame-duck governor), and doomed Democrat Kendrick Meek. Indeed, Meek’s candidacy is so doomed that he strongly considered dropping out of the race at the eleventh hour, whereupon he would have asked all Democrats to back Crist as a way of stopping Rubio.

Got all that? But it gets way better. Turns out, the guy who asked Meek to drop out was Bill Clinton. He’s an old friend of the Meek family – Kendrick’s mother was a longtime African-American congresswoman who stuck by Bill when Bill was under Republican siege during the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Carrie Meek, 1998: “This process is unfair…Goodness and justice with prevail”) – so he had the right credentials to make the case.

And Clinton’s case was a good one: Kendrick Meek had no chance to win this Senate race (he’s been pulling roughly 15 percent in the polls); therefore, if he quit and endorsed Crist (who is already drawing moderate Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents), the combined voters might trump the Republican tea-partier…and a likely Republican Senate seat might well land in the blue column, thereby aiding the national Democrats in their bid to hang on to the Senate chamber.

In other words, Meek could fall on his sword for the good of the party. And, reportedly, he nearly agreed to take that fall, at Clinton’s behest. Twice. But ultimately he said no, fearing that he’d be tagged as a quitter. Today, he spun it this way on CNBC: “I’m not going to sell out on the people of the state of Florida.” And last night, he went on camera and declared: “I am looking forward to being the next U.S. senator from Florida.”

In his dreams. It has long been obvious, though it has remained largely unspoken, that Meek would be a weak Senate candidate for reasons going far beyond the fact that he’s a congressman from Miami with scant statewide name ID. Simply put, he is African-American, and would you care to guess how many black candidates have won Senate races below the Mason-Dixon line, in all the years since the Reconstruction era?

Zip.

In recent times, three qualified southern blacks have sought Senate seats, only to come up short: Ron Kirk in Texas (he lost in 2002 to John Cornyn), Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee (he lost in 2006 to Bob Corker), and Harvey Gantt in North Carolina (he lost in 1990 and 1996 to Jesse Helms). Indeed, only two black Democrats have ever won Senate races anywhere – both times in Illinois: Carol Mosley Braun and Barack Obama.

Have some of the southern voters thought about race on election day? You decide. Jesse Helms infamously exploited that factor when he ran against Gantt; in 1990, he ran a TV ad depicting a pair of white hands crumpling a job application, coupled with the on-screen assertion that Gantt supported racial quotas. And in the tight ’06 Tennessee Senate race, Harold Ford was ambushed by a GOP ad that featured a winking white woman saying “Harold, call me!”

Thankfully, the Florida contest has been more of a high-road affair (Rubio, the tea-party Republican, is Latino; he’s also an accomplished, articulate politician). Nevertheless, the polls speak for themselves: Meek’s thin support is underpinned by African-American voters; most moderate white Democrats, as well as Democratic-leaning independents have swung to Crist. So it would be nuts to deny that race has been a factor; this split in the non-Republican vote was foreseeable many months ago. (I saw it, anyway, and wrote it.)

Clinton, given his longstanding popularity in the black community, was the only white Democrat who could credibly ask Meek to quit for the good of the party. But the move will probably backfire. Meek’s African-American voters are likely to bond with him on Tuesday, out of pique that the Democratic establishment (no doubt with a nod from the White House) tried to game the election at the eleventh hour. And, frankly, who could blame them?

——-

I imparted audio thoughts this morning on “Radio Times,” which featured a one-hour preview of the midterm elections. I shared thoughts with fellow guests Bill Cook (who drove in from WHYY Delaware), and Scott Detrow (who drove in from WHYY Harrisburg). Marty Moss-Coane’s show (which can be heard here) was staged in front of a live audience. There was frequent laughter, presumably for the right reasons.


39 Comments

  • mw56 says:

    I wonder if Polman will write about Charles Lollar, Tim Scott, Allen West or Ryan Frazier. If not them how about Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval, Bill Flores, Jaime Herrera, Quico Canseco, or David Rivera. They would all make good copy but they don’t fit into his narrow closed mind view.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Rasmussen Reports now has Rubio up by 20 points with 50% in a 3 person race. So the desparate move by Democrats to get the African American out of the race would not have worked.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Rubio is up by 20 points and 17 points in two new polls out today . See http://www.realclearpolitics.com So in Florida we have a Latino running and an African American running and the Democrats are fast at work to torpedo both of them so the old white guy can hang onto a political office. Sorta makes you wonder if Democrats need to look in the mirror instead of casting dispersions on others about racism.

    • yobill626 says:

      C’mon, SMike. The Dems aren’t “torpedoing” Meeks & Rubio BECAUSE they are minorities. THAT would be rascist, & I honestly don’t believe either party does that. Meeks, no matter what his color, has not run a good campaign. Rubio, is a dynamo & future national figure. The Dems are just trying to stop him now because I think they know they will have to deal with a stronger candidate later. I don’t agree with Rubio, but he is a good candidate & is one of the Tea Partiers that has a brain.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Yobill626- I thought it was a fair post since Democrats spend so much time making baseless accusations that Conservatives are racist. It is a bit amusing that the left is trying to defeat a latino and black man so vigorously

  • Cutter McCool says:

    Had forgotten that significant historical fact–no black Senator has ever been elected in any state that belonged to the confederacy. And only two in our nation’s history–both from Illinois, land of Lincoln, and the second senator is currently president. (Which makes Obama’s achievement that much more impressive, given the staggering odds against him.) Does any fact better explain the Tea Party uprising than this–they got caught sleeping in 2008, their man (Bush) they wanted to have a beer with was such an awful president that “a white man can’t even run for president” (Chris Rock, during the HCR vs. BO primary), and so the cool kids elected a black man president, and now the squares (Teabaggers) want their revenge? (in the midterm, which is the only election they can get it, because the cool kids will be back to vote again in 2012). Amazing that Obama won in both Virgina and North Carolina in 2008–and those former-confederate states have never even elected an African-American to statewide office. This just shows what rebellion Obama would be up against even if unemployment wasn’t 9.6%, or healthcare wasn’t passed, or federal spending hadn’t gone up, to deal with keeping this major recession from becoming a depression, as it has. No historical fact illustrates better than this–no black Senator’s other than in Illinois–that the tide against Obama is, if not racist, then race-based.

    • mw56 says:

      Cutter, Three names that you should look up. Hiram Revels, Blanche Bruce, and Edward Brooke III

      • Cutter McCool says:

        Good point. Here’s bio on Revels from Wikipedia on his “Election to Senate”:
        “At the time, the state legislature elected US senators. Revels was elected by a vote of 81 to 15 in the Mississippi State Senate to finish the term of one of the state’s two seats in the US Senate left vacant since the Civil War. The seat had once been held by Albert G. Brown, who withdrew from the US Senate in 1861.The election of Revels was met with opposition from Southern conservative Democrats who cited the Dred Scott Decision which was considered by many to have been a central cause of the American Civil War. They argued that no black man was a citizen before the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. Because election to the Senate required nine years’ prior citizenship, opponents of Revels claimed he could not be seated, having been a citizen by law for only two years. Supporters of Revels countered by stating that the Dred Scott decision applied only to those blacks who were of pure African blood. Revels was of mixed black and white ancestry, and therefore exempt, they said, and had been a citizen all his life. This argument prevailed, and on February 25, 1870, Revels, by a vote of 48 to 8, became the first black man to be seated in the United States Senate.” Given that he was elected by the Mississippi Senate–even though this is MS, what you’d probably call “elitists,” how is his election germane to the point that NO AFRICAN-AMERICAN HAS BEEN ELECTED TO STATEWIDE OFFICE BY A STATEWIDE VOTE IN ANY STATE THAT BELONGED TO THE CONFEDERACY?

        • mw56 says:

          Keep going 2 more names.

        • Rich says:

          Edward Brooke was a Republican from Massachusetts, which, last time I checked, did not belong to the Confederacy. Blanche Bruce, of whom I had never heard, was elected BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE as a Republican Senator from Mississippi – in 1874. ’nuff said?

        • mw56 says:

          Hold it but somebody stated the fact “only two (senators) in our nation’s history–both from Illinois” have been elected. Also somebody said “those former-confederate states have never even elected an African-American to statewide office”. Bruce was elected by the whole State Legislature which at the time was the CONSTITUTIONAL way for senators to be ELECTED. (and should be again). nuff said?

    • Swedesboro says:

      Cutter- An Indian-American is about to win the governorship of South Carolina. And don’t forget Jindel in Louisiana. Liberals don’t win in statewide elections in the south but it has got nothing to do with color.

    • NE Philly says:

      Those racists, old confederates in NC and VA voted for a black man to be president, but they would have revolted anyway because he is black? Huh? 9.6% unemployment is the key to this all. Liberal democratic policies enacted by a dem senate, house and presidency have run the economy out of the ditch and down the side of a mountain! That is why Obama’s numbers are down in the south, not his skin color!

      • NigeltheMastiff says:

        Listen. I don’t care who is voted in or out, but I live in the South. To say there is no racism is to live in a fantasy bubble. There is still a lot of racism in the South. I find it quite painful. Not everyone is, but the top of the social scale still is very racist. Before the election, one of them said, “Who will call Obama a N—-?” Another told me after the election that one of his friends was quite upset that Obama was elected because he is black. Knowing that I am liberal, he said to me, “I told him that Obama is also half white.” There is still racism in America. I do think we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Is there even a poll out there showing Rubio v Crist with Crist in the lead? Anyone voting for Meek at this late stage probably would not switch to Crist just because Meek dropped out. Meek would still be on the ballot, and any Meek supporter not already voting for Crist at this point probably would either still vote for Meek or just not vote. Meanwhile, off point, Keith Olbermann actually said this about conservatives/tea party members…”They fight the redistribution of wealth not because they oppose redistribution, but because their sole purpose is to protect wealth and keep it where they think it belongs, in the bank accounts of the wealthy.” So where does the money a wealthy person earns belong?

    • landscape says:

      Tom I think you’re missing the point about redistribution.

    • Cutter McCool says:

      Economic data throughout the 20th century show that the richer the poor are the richer the rich become. Simple why–the more money the poor have to spend, the more products they buy, the more the rich profits from that through the companies they own that produce those products. That same data show that the poorer the poor are, the less rich the rich become during those periods. Which, ironically enough, happen to correspond to Republican administrations, as this happened most recently during the Bush years, were the richest got richer at half the rate they did under Clinton. Hoarding money is not only bad for the poor, it’s bad for the wealthy hoarders. As they say, it takes money to make money. More they pay their employees the more money they make from economic activity in return. Call it “trickle-up economics” (trickle-down is BS that hoarders made up to justify their hoarding. And, ironically, while not impoverishing themselves–the poor get the worst of it when the rich hoard–but enrich themselves at a greatly reduced rate.

      • NE Philly says:

        Those hoarders and bad rich people are the ones that actually hire people and pay taxes and take risks. We have tried the Presidents ‘trickle-up’ economics for 2 years and we have 10% unemployment. The President tried and failed to jump start the economy with the best and brightest of liberalism at his side! Increased govt. spending, more taxes, more mandates, more food stamps, more unemployment, more govt. has driven the economy out of the ditch and down the side of a mountain, imho:) That is why the dems will get shellacked on Tuesday, it really is ‘the economy stupid':)

        • landscape says:

          NE I think you are also missing the point made about redistribution. You’re responding to a different issue.

        • portly says:

          He’s not responding to anything, Landscape, he’s just spouting rightwingnut drivel. Compromising with Congressional wingnuts, Obama’s stimulus was way too small, although it held the economy from going completely over a cliff. If you all think we have it bad now, wait til John Boehner becomes the Speaker. Full-court obstructionism, here we come…

        • NE Philly says:

          If it is a different point of view it is wingnut drivel, I get it:) The country doesn’t think the stimulus was too small, only Paul Krugman and the too smart for everyone liberal elite think so. If govt. deficit spending increased economic activity we would be swimming in it, but what we are swimming in is debt and economic malaise created by all the smart people in Wash DC!

        • landscape says:

          NE It’s not about point of view, it’s about getting the point being made.

  • jmc says:

    Crist is a sleaze in the Arlen Specter tradition. He’ll whore himself out to anybody just to get elected. If you want to run as an independent, fine. But if you face the voters and lose, as Crist did in the primary, your done. These losing politicans never go away, they always crawl out from under some other rock.

  • trx says:

    Polman’s a pretty good journalist the 10% of the time he isnt spinning for the DNC.

  • trx says:

    For the life of me, I cant understand how Black democrats keep taking it in the teeth from the Democratic Party yet they vote with them in lockstep.

    • portly says:

      They read the Civil Rights Act, for one thing. They look (in vain) for ways the Republicons have helped the Black Community. They can see the forest for the trees, unlike many of our friendly trolls here at National Interest.

      • F. Inahoy says:

        Would that be the Civil Rights Act that was supported by a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats? “According to Congressional Quarterly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964
        passed the House 290-130, and Republican support for the bill was much
        stronger than Democratic: 61 percent (152-96) of the Democrats
        supported the legislation while 80 percent (138-34) of the Republicans
        backed it. These numbers were similar in the Senate — 69 percent of
        Democrats (46-21), backed the bill along with 82 percent of
        Republicans (27-6).”

  • swedesboromike says:

    Rand Paul is now up by 12 points according to Rasmussen Reports. So the little moveon.org stunt appears to have perhaps backfired on the libs……………………………………. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2010/election_2010_senate_elections/kentucky/election_2010_kentucky_senate

  • swedesboromike says:

    Well isn’t this spin great. A white liberal asks an African American candidate to bow out of the race and now we are to believe that we are the ones who are racist. Liberal logic is so cute

    • NE Philly says:

      Smike, it really is unbelievable. Also, as far as negative votes go, take the negatives as a badge of honor. I do:) Let’s play the most negatives votes wins game:)Lol.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Obama and the libs never really supported Meek in the first place. I think Meek came off as a far more credible candidate than Christ. Charlie Christ looks like a guy who is in a state of panic about the possibility of not having a government job.

  • NE Philly says:

    The main reason the liberal dem Meek is a weakened senate candidate is because Charlie Crist doesn’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer, not because he is black. Sheesh! If you don’t like me or my liberal ways and I happen to be black, it is somehow a racial thing? It is not racial, it is liberal vs. conservative and the libs still can’t seem to understand the drubbing they are about to get! It was bad explaining or racial or the dumb Americans just aren’t smart enough to understand (the understand fine, by the way), but that is not it. It is the country has seen what liberal control of our federal govt. has wraught and they are nauseous. All the goodwill the dems had from 2008 has been literally spent away by this congress & president and they are the best reason to vote for the GOP this Tuesday. Thank you for over reaching so far:)

    • landscape says:

      NE Have you seen lines around the block for all of the soup kitchens?

      • NE Philly says:

        Not yet, but it is only a matter of time if you run up $1.4 Trillion dollar yearly deficits for much longer, imo:)

        • NE Philly says:

          42 million Americans (a new record) on foodstamps! The new age soup lines brought to you by the party of foodstamps:)

        • landscape says:

          NE My point exactly. It’s not nearly as bad as it was during the last depression (That was not during the Bush years) Think 1930’s. We dodged a bullet.

      • Swedesboro says:

        Landscape. funny line. There weren’t soup kitchen lines when Bush was President either. Back when unemployment was 5% your side was telling us it was the worst economy since the great depression. Now with it at 9.6% you tell us we are in a recovery. Good luck Tuesday

        • landscape says:

          Swedesboro You doon’t know my side. You assume because I don’t agree with you on every point. You know what assuming can do.

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