Bill Clinton urges Dems to vote for Meek in St. Pete listen10/19/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Fans started lining up in the wee hours at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg this morning to see one of the biggest stars of the Democratic Party. President Bill Clinton was in town urging voters to not only vote for Kendrick Meek in the US Senate race, but to tell their friends to do the same. Local Democrats like Tampa state Senator Arthenia Joyner kick off the rally with a message that seems to stick.
Attendance gradually grew to an estimated one thousand people. State Senator Charlie Justice, who faces ten-term congressional Republican Bill Young in the race for the House of Representativesâ€™ District 10 seat, has seized upon the idea of â€œshowing upâ€ in his campaign. Here, he urges the audience to show up at the polls November Second.
Other speakers include State Representative Rick Kriseman, US Representative Kathy Castor, and US Senator Bill Nelson. After a while, Kendrick Meek and former President Bill Clinton show up. Clinton says he generally doesnâ€™t do politics anymore, but this election year is too important for him to sit on the sidelines.
Clinton speaks for about half an hour, and focuses largely on the differences between the election year narrative Republicans embrace, and that of the Democrats.
Clinton says the Republicans are trying to blame the economic collapse on Democrats, when he says it actually resulted from GOP policies.
The former president also zeroes in on key Democratic talking points, like the absurdity of keeping Bush-era tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans, and the health care overhaul many Republicans decry socialistic.
While Clinton spoke for more than thirty minutes, he didnâ€™t seem to lose the crowd. But his speech did hit a snag when a heckler began shouting about nine-eleven, among other things before party staffers escort him out.
Rather than simply ignore him, Clinton calls him out.
The whole reason Clintonâ€™s in St. Pete in the first place is to get Democratic voters to back Kendrick Meekâ€™s US Senate bid. Meek is in a tough multi-way race. Polls show the top two candidates so far are Republican Marco Rubio and non-party candidate Charlie Crist. Rubio is popular among tea partiers. Some Democrats think voting for Crist, a self-proclaimed centrist, will prevent a Rubio victory. But others say Meek will represent his party in the Senate while itâ€™s hard to tell what Crist would do. Clinton doesnâ€™t mention Crist at all, and speaks of Rubio in passing.
Meek, who is debating Rubio and Crist tonight in Davie, says poll numbers may be bleak, but they donâ€™t predict what will happen November Second.
USF student Paul Smietana says he likes Meek, but when polls show Rubio easily winning the US Senate seat, the third place candidate should join forces with Crist.
For others, like Lynn Alterman, the jury is still out.
Kate Duffy, Democratic Party volunteer who drove up from Fort Myers Beach, says itâ€™s senseless to support Crist due to fear of Rubio.
Meek will debate Crist and Rubio tonight in Davie, and appear with Clinton again tomorrow in Orlando.