Are Democrats Abandoning Kendrick Meek In Florida?

Gov. Charlie Crist is becoming the de facto Democratic nominee in the Florida Senate race, and there’s evidence that Democratic donors are starting to line up behind him. That’s not good news for the party’s actual choice in the race, Rep. Kendrick Meek.

Since abandoning the Republican Party in the face of a challenge from Marco Rubio, Crist has pulled left on issues near and dear to organized labor and other classically Democratic constituency groups. So far, most of the groups that endorsed Meek early have praised Crist’s moves but have stayed with Meek.

In Friday’s St. Petersburg Times, however, there’s evidence Democratic fundraising machinery is leaving Meek behind.The paper reports that several major Democratic donors in Florida have thrown their weight behind Crist, claiming he’s the real electable candidate to carry their views to Washington.

“We need more people like Charlie Crist in Washington to set aside the partisan bickering,” Lance Block, “a delegate to three Democratic presidential conventions who played a key role in helping Al Gore during the 2000 Florida vote recount” told the paper. Block recently hosted a big fundraiser for Crist that included what the Times describes as a who’s who of “Democratic stalwarts” in Florida.

The Block fundraiser is not the only Democratic-hosted money event Crist has been too lately. The Times reports on several similar events in Crist’s recent schedule, including one hosted by former Sen. Bob Graham’s (D) ex-son-in-law.

These are the kind of people Crist needs to get behind him if he wants to stay competitive with Rubio, who has dramatically outraised Crist since the governor left the GOP. But they’re also the kind of people Meek needs to get on his side if he wants to maintain legitimacy with the national Democratic base and fight off a primary challenge from billionaire investor Jeff Greene.

The TPM Poll Average shows Meek leading Greene 29.0%-27.0% in the Democratic primary, and trailing in the general election: Crist 38.2%, Rubio 33.7%, Meek 14.5%.

For now, the Meek campaign says it’s not worried. Campaign spokesperson Adam Sharon “downplayed” the new Crist donors to the Times.

“A name here and a name here may carry some cachet, but almost 250 elected Democrats statewide are with Kendrick,” he told the paper. “The governor will always be a lifelong conservative and Kendrick is a lifelong Democrat. The governor’s history doesn’t get erased.”

Meek still has some pretty serious financial firepower on his side. It was his ability to raise money and do it quickly that cleared the Democratic field in Florida before Greene got in, and Meek still boasts national fundraising help from Bill Clinton, whose early support was key to Meek taking the national stage.

But with poll numbers still showing Meek lagging well behind Crist and Rubio — and Crist doing his damndest to reach out to the Democratic base — the donor shift toward Crist could spell more problems for Meek down the road.