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Bill Clinton appears with Meek at Orlando rally

By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 1:05 PM

A week after former president Bill Clinton reportedly urged U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek to withdraw from the Florida Senate race for the good of the Democratic Party, Clinton appeared beside his friend and protege to rally the faithful on election eve in Orlando.

Clinton had reportedly asked Meek to step aside in a three-way race so that the independent candidate running second in the polls, Gov. Charlie Crist, would have a better chance of beating Republican front-runner Marco Rubio.

Monday night, however, there seemed little tension between Clinton and Meek as the former president - ever the energizer campaigner - leapt onto the stage and clasped hands with his old friend, whom he has known since Meek was a young state trooper in 1991. The job of introducing Clinton went to Alex Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

"I keep looking for this enthusiasm gap the Republicans say exist, and I can't find it to save my life," Clinton said to wild applause.

Several hundred supporters gathered alongside a lake in Orlando's downtown business district for the late-night rally, waving signs that said "Alex Sink for Governor" and batting beach balls around the humid air.

Clinton praised Meek's support of the stimulus package, which he said created jobs, and Sink's cost-cutting measures as Florida's chief financial officer. Clinton went on to discourses on the failure of the banking system and health care until even the college students in the park were drifting away.

Afterward, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) scoffed at the idea of tension between Clinton and Meek.

"This was a love-fest," Nelson said. "He's campaigned for Kendrick 14 times. What other candidate could say that?"

Most at the rally were more concerned with the tight Florida governor's race than the Machiavellian drama behind the scenes of the Senate battle. In late polls, Sink was nearly in a dead heat with Republican Rick Scott, a health-care executive who has spent $73 million of his own money in his gubernatorial bid.

"I think it would be great to have a woman governor," said Kathleen Sabol, a 24-year-old artist from Orlando. "And I don't trust what's-his-name." [Scott.]

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