Video: Meek: Clinton ‘never asked me to get out’
Transcript of: Meek: Clinton ‘never asked me to get out’
VIEIRA: All right, Savannah , thank you very much . So did Bill Clinton float the idea of Democrat Kendrick Meek dropping out of Florida's Senate race? Congressman Meek is with us now. Congressman, good morning to you, sir.
Rep. MEEK: Good morning, Meredith .
VIEIRA: So let us set the record straight. Did Bill Clinton ever ask you explicitly or implicitly to drop out of the race for senator?
Rep. MEEK: No, ma'am. When he came down here and he had two rallies for me here -- one in Orlando where I am now, and one in St. Petersburg -- we talked about the reports of the -- of the week before. And I told him that I'm not interested in getting out of the race. He said, 'Well, OK.' We talked about it, and that was that. I never once told him that I was getting out and he never once asked me to get out.
VIEIRA: What do you mean you talked about the reports of a week before? What reports are you referring to?
Rep. MEEK: Well, there were reports that were pushed out there by the Charlie Crist campaign that I was considering getting out of the race. As soon as I won the Democratic nomination, his campaign started on that. I never once said that I was going to get out, never once seriously considered getting out of the race. I'm too busy running to win the race.
VIEIRA: And yet a spokesperson for former President Clinton said to us last night that Clinton tried to convince you that if you did quit, independent Governor Charlie Crist would be able to beat tea party favorite Marco Rubio . So even if he didn't explicitly ask you to get out, wasn't that the message?
Rep. MEEK: That was not the message. The bottom line is that we have some smart voters down here in Florida , and they're going to vote for the candidate of their choice.
VIEIRA: Again, I'm trying to get that record straight. Did Clinton ever discuss with you the possibility of dropping out?
Rep. MEEK: No. He -- what he said, he's been in the position before when he was down in the polls. He said he's lost a few campaigns. He said that he's won quite a few, and he still made it to the presidency. That's not what I'm running for, I'm running to be the next United States senator . We talk all the time. He's one of the biggest supporters I have in this -- in this particular campaign. He's done over 11 events for me. And so we were talking before we went on stage. You know, as you know, Bill Clinton , he loves to talk politics, but he never once kind of painted a scenario of me getting out and helping Charlie Crist ...
VIEIRA: He does love to talk politics...
Rep. MEEK: ...as a....
VIEIRA: ... and I know last night on CNN he talked about you specifically. I want to play you a little bit of what he said, and then we'll discuss it on the other side .
Rep. MEEK: Absolutely.
Pres. CLINTON: Trying to decide what to do, and I talked to him, and I told him that -- we went through everything. We talked about it a couple of times. And I said in the end, you know, he would have to do what he thought was right. He'd have to do what he felt best about, felt right about.
VIEIRA: See, it sounds like he's suggesting you were considering dropping out, that you were going through the scenarios, all the scenarios with him.
Rep. MEEK: No, what he -- what he is suggest -- what his suggestion was was, you know, ' Kendrick , you're in a -- you know, you're in a race, the people of the state of Florida are going to have to vote the way they would like to vote.' And the real issue here is that he never once said, 'You need to drop out.' I never once said, 'Hey, I'm going to drop out, what do you think?' or 'I'm not going to drop out, what do you think?'
VIEIRA: So who do you think are behind -- who do you think are behind these rumors then?
Rep. MEEK: Well, I can tell you there's some very -- you know, that'll be -- that's a very good question, Meredith , and I don't know. I'm just a guy down here running for the United States Senate . I'm the only pro-choice candidate.
VIEIRA: You may not know, but you must have your suspicions, Congressman Meek , as to who is behind these rumors, if they're not true.
Rep. MEEK: Well, I can tell you -- well, I mean, Charlie Crist has said that he called the Clinton people, that he called the White House . I mean, I didn't do -- I didn't make these phone calls.
VIEIRA: And yet the latest poll shows you with just 15 percent of the vote. So do you really believe you have a chance to win this thing?
Rep. MEEK: Let me just say this, Meredith . I don't really believe I'm at 15 percent. I mean, that's just the bottom line . I was down by 10 percent before the Democratic primary , I won it by 26 points. I'm just saying let the people of the state of Florida vote. Let them vote, let their voice be heard. The bottom line is is that I am in this race, I'm a reality in this race, and I came on TODAY show to let everyone know that I'm in this race for all the right reasons . I'm the only pro-choice candidate in this race, I'm the only anti-oil drilling candidate in this race off the coast of Florida and I'm supported by the VFW PAC and veterans.
Rep. MEEK: So, I mean, the bottom line is I'm -- you know, I don't have the prerogative to sit here and say that I'm going to get out of the race.
VIEIRA: And if for some reason Marco Rubio wins this race and you are perceived to be the spoiler by your own party, are you worried that this could destroy your political career going forward, or severely damage it?
Rep. MEEK: Let me tell you what will destroy my political career if, you know, there's, you know, a question of my political career. The bottom line is is quitting in the middle of a race. I don't do that, and I will not do that to the people of the state of Florida . The people have an opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. Many, I guarantee you, Meredith , will vote for me. I find myself in the position to win this race for the United States Senate , and I'm going to continue to work hard to win it.
Explainer: Key Florida races
NBC analyzes and rates the state's big midterm contests.
Wealthy former hospital executive Rick Scott takes on Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, in this open seat vacated by Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the Senate. Scott, a political novice, spent more than $50 million to win his primary bid over establishment pick Bill McCollum, the state’s attorney general.
NBC Rating: Toss up
This has been one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country. Crist was a prized recruit of national Republicans, but the conservative furor seen this cycle boosted former state House Speaker Marco Rubio to the nomination. Reading the writing on the wall, Crist switched parties before the primary, becoming an independent and creating a three-way race between himself, Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.
NBC Rating: Lean Republican
FL-8: Democratic freshman Rep. Alan Grayson is one of the most bombastic members of Congress, famously saying during the health care debate that the GOP wants you to "die quickly." He’s running against state Republican Sen. Daniel Webster and third-party candidate Peg Dunmire, who’s backed by the Tea Party.
NBC Rating: Toss up
FL-22: If incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Klein goes down, the GOP wave will be huge. He’s running against Republican Allen West, who has had to defend his Army record because he was discharged after shooting over the head of an Iraqi during an interrogation.
NBC Rating: Toss up
Reuters contributed to this report.