Meek welcomes White House help

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) said some help from the White House would show Florida voters he’s the “real Democrat” in the Senate primary race.

“I believe that Democrats in Florida want some direction,” Meek said in a Wednesday interview with The Hill. “The help from the White House is very important, not only to my campaign, but to show primary voters that I’m the real Democrat in the race.”

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Meek, who’s locked in a tight Senate primary with self-funding billionaire Jeff Greene, said he anticipates Monday’s fundraiser with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to be “just the beginning of what the White House will do in the coming weeks.”

President Obama endorsed Meek earlier in the year, before Greene decided to enter the race. But the president has not held a fundraiser or campaign rally for the Florida Democrat, and the White House’s level of involvement has rankled some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

The White House has committed to sending Vice President Joe Biden to campaign for Meek, but that hasn’t been scheduled. 

Asked whether he felt the White House has done enough to aid his campaign, Meek pointed to the Emanuel fundraiser and said, “We asked for help and the White House has been a part of helping.”

Meek also called The Hill on Thursday to stress that he’s very excited about his backing from the White House.

“I’m one of the few who’s getting primary attention from the White House, and we certainly appreciate that,” he said.

A senior Democratic official pointed out the administration’s support.

“I find it hard to believe that any Democrat in that state doesn’t know that the president is four-square behind Kendrick Meek,” the official said. “He’s helped him raised money, Rahm Emanuel is hosting a fundraiser for him on Monday, he’s met him multiple times in the state and introduced him as the next senator from Florida at a recent fundraiser.”

The fundraiser the official was referring to was a Democratic National Committee reception in Florida in April, at which Obama spoke. Meek was in attendance.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a CBC member, said while he thinks it’s a bit too early to properly judge Obama’s level of involvement in Meek’s race, he expects the president “will be fully engaged.”

“I’m sure Kendrick Meek wants and deserves that involvement sooner rather than later,” Cummings added.

The relationship between Meek and the White House has been anything but smooth over the course of the primary season. The White House has had to deny reports that Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s making an Independent bid for the Senate, spoke with Emanuel about the possibility of the White House backing him if he ran as a Democrat. 

There’s also the fact that Meek was a strong supporter of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign, which no doubt helped win him the strong support he has received from former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton had done five fundraisers for the congressman and is scheduled to do a campaign rally with Meek before the primary, according to Meek’s campaign. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also had to deny that he and Crist have had discussions about the possibility of Crist caucusing with Senate Democrats should he win in November. Crist has led in several polls and has not said which party he’ll caucus with if he wins.

“Meek hangs his hat on all of these endorsements,” said Greene, his primary opponent. “But everyone knows he got them when he was the only Democrat in the race.”

Meek campaign manager Abe Dyk dismissed Greene’s charge, calling it a “ridiculous assertion.”

Greene pointed to Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll that showed him opening up a 10-point lead in the race with Meek. Greene leads Meek 33 percent to 23, with former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre polling at 4 percent.

Still, a plurality of Democratic primary voters remain undecided, according to Quinnipiac. A full 35 percent of likely voters haven’t yet made up their minds.

“I’m not getting this support by accident,” Greene said. “I’m getting it because I’m working my tail off.”

Greene has tried to win converts within the state’s Democratic establishment. He spent a few thousand dollars purchasing tables at the party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. He’s also pledged to support Meek if the congressman wins the Aug. 24 primary, something Meek would not do on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

It doesn’t hurt that Greene has spent more than $6 million on his campaign thus far, mostly on TV ads.

On Meek’s level of support from the White House, Greene demurred, saying, “I’m running in Florida, and the people of Florida will decide.”

Another concern for Meek is that Democratic donors have been warming to Crist. And a political consulting firm where former White House communications director Anita Dunn is a partner is doing Crist’s media.

Last week, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) indicated that the DSCC would back the self-funding Greene if he won the primary, but may not fully contribute to his cause.

“We always support whoever is our nominee at the end of the day,” he said. “I expect that to be Kendrick Meek. And, you know, until it’s different, we’re with Kendrick Meek, and we’re doing everything we can to help him.”

Asked specifically if the DSCC would embrace Greene, Menendez said, “We always support our nominees. Now, ‘support’ has all different connotations to it. I don’t spend money everywhere I have a nominee, because I don’t have that much money.”