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Clinton's role in Meek controversy no surprise given his 2010 election zeal

Whatever role Bill Clinton played in a plan to nudge, or not nudge, Kendrick Meek out of Florida's Senate race, it's no surprise the former president was in the fray.

Clinton has been an indefatigable force during the 2010 midterm elections, stumping for dozens of candidates from coast to coast and playing a behind-the-scenes role that stirred controversy well before the Meek story broke Thursday.

He is by far the most popular Democrat making the rounds, certainly more than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., who is more of a liability than an asset these days.

Ask Alex Sink, the Democrat running for governor in Florida. She has avoided being seen with President Barack Obama but jumped at the chance to appear with Clinton last week.

"I love Bill Clinton," said Maria Kramer, a 50-year-old Miami Lakes resident who came to Miami-Dade College's north campus last week to see the ex-president campaign for Sink. "He did a great job and the economy was great. As for Obama, I'm iffy because I'm not sure that we've made much progress."

A recent Gallup poll found that Clinton and Obama had a similar effect among Democratic voters, but more independents — 21 percent to 12 percent — said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Clinton appeared with than one Obama backed.

As of Friday, Clinton had participated in 118 events for 81 candidates, from big name figures like Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Jerry Brown, seeking a encore as governor of California, to Suzanne Kosmas, a vulnerable first-term congresswoman from Central Florida.

"I have to tell you, it's no secret that I did what I could to defeat President Obama, and I still like my secretary of state," Clinton told a crowd in Battle Creek, Mich., earlier this month, referring to his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But "both he and the Congress have done a better job than most Americans think."

The story of what was said between Clinton, 64, and Meek was still murky Friday.

The two men have a long relationship, going back to when Meek was a Florida Highway Patrol officer providing security on a trip to the state by then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton. A large share of Meek's campaign was funded through 11 fundraisers Clinton held for him. After many Democrats gave up on Meek, Clinton was still at his side.

Against that backdrop, it makes sense that Clinton was in a position to at least talk to Meek about the possibility.

"He could be stepping in saying, 'Look we fought the good fight, it's not going to happen, let's not let Marco Rubio win this seat,' " said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

"He's very loyal to his party and wants to see Democrats succeed," Ornstein added. "Nobody is going to say that Democrats lost seats because of Bill Clinton."

This is not the first insider politics flap Clinton has been involved in. Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak said Clinton tried to get him to drop out of the Democratic primary for Senate in Pennsylvania to clear the way for Arlen Specter.

Sestak, who said Clinton suggested he could get a job with the Obama administration, refused. He beat Specter.

The White House later said it had asked Clinton to broach the subject.

In private or on stage, Clinton is clearly relishing the role. He says he's just using his political capital and knows it comes in cycles.

"Look, folks, I remember. I've seen this movie before, in 1994," he said recently referring to his first midterm election, when Republicans were elected in waves.

"I called the president the other day and I said, 'Relax, they haven't said anything about you that they didn't say about me,' " he said. " 'The only reason they're being nice to me now is I can't run for anything anymore.' "

Miami Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

Clinton's role in Meek controversy no surprise given his 2010 election zeal 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 10:23pm]
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