TALLAHASSEE — Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek isn't backing away from his support of President Barack Obama as he tries to win a U.S. Senate seat, happily accepting the president's help as Republicans nationwide make gains by criticizing his agenda.
Meek's campaign released a statewide radio ad on Monday that Obama recorded for him. In the minute-long ad, Obama lists policies that Meek has supported, including health care and financial regulation overhauls.
While it may seem a strange strategy at a time when there's voter backlash against Democrats, Meek is also in the unusual situation of having to win over Democrats supporting independent Gov. Charlie Crist, who was a lifelong Republican until leaving the party in April after falling behind Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.
"There are very few that are in a three-way race like I'm in," Meek said. "If the president of the United States wants to support my campaign, I will welcome his support."
In the ad, Obama says, "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."
Obama also says Meek opposes extending tax cuts for the wealthy and supports small businesses.
Meek highlighted his support for the Obama agenda during the first two general election debates, defending his vote for the health care overhaul and saying the $787 billion stimulus kept the country out of a depression. Rubio, a former House speaker, has built his lead with the opposite message, saying Obama's policies have been a disaster.
"Kendrick Meek has been a reliable rubberstamp for the Obama agenda of higher taxes, wasteful spending, more debt and job-killing regulations," said Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos. "So it's not surprising that the White House would cut an ad for its favorite congressman."
Meek, who planned to be with Obama at a fundraiser in Florida Monday, will also have former President Bill Clinton campaign with him twice before Election Day. He said the combined support will help motivate Democrats to vote. His goal is to build support by being a champion for middle class workers.
"As people are making their final decisions, there's a lot of soft support out there for the governor," Meek said. "Voters in the final analysis will vote for the Democratic candidate. Period."
Crist didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.