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Obama not Giving up on Kendrick Meek in Florida

Florida Senate Candidates: Marco Rubio (left), Kendrick Meek (center) and Charlie Crist (right) CBS/AP

Last week, the Wall Street Journal speculated that Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek "might drop out of the Florida senate race and thereby pave the path to victory for Charlie Crist."

Meek quickly knocked down the claim - his campaign said he "laughed out loud" - but he must have realized it may have reflected some wishful thinking from some in the Democratic party, which seems to have little chance to win the seat as things now stand.

Here's why: The Florida Senate race is a three-man fight between Meek, Crist and Republican Marco Rubio. Polls show Rubio with a wide lead. But that lead would diminish to at least some degree were Crist or Meek, who are splitting the moderate and liberal vote, to leave the race.

Crist, a former moderate Republican who was driven from his party by Rubio's candidacy from the right, has not said which party he will caucus with if he wins. But many political observers expect him to side with the Democrats, effectively giving the party another seat in the Senate.

Unfortunately for Crist, today brought news that his Democratic opponent doesn't seem to be going anywhere. President Obama cut a radio ad for Meek in advance of his trip to the state for a pair of fundraisers this evening; in it, the president says he "strongly supports" Meek.

"Kendrick's been a powerful voice for Floridians: standing up to special interests, to hold Wall Street accountable, fighting the insurance industry to make sure health care isn't denied to our children because of a preexisting condition, working to eliminate subsidies to banks so young people can afford a college education, and Kendrick strongly opposes extending tax breaks for the wealthy and has worked tirelessly to expand the middle class and support small businesses," he says. "So please join me in supporting Kendrick Meek for Senate." (You can hear the spot here.)

Rubio's campaign responded to the spot by tying Meek to the president, much as it did with Crist in the GOP primary.

"When President Obama needed a 'yes' vote in the United States Congress for his anti-jobs proposals, Kendrick Meek was always there," spokesman Alex Burgos said. "So it's not surprising that the White House would cut an ad for its favorite Congressman."

A Mason-Dixon poll out this month shows Rubio with 42 percent of the vote, followed by Crist at 27 percent and Meek at 21 percent.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010
Florida Senate Election 2010: Marco Rubio (R) vs. Kendrick Meek (D) vs. Charlie Crist (I)

Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.