With Greene Gone, Meek Still Has Mountain to Climb in US Senate Race

Kendrick Meek will not miss Jeff Greene. Like that guy at your party who shows up uninvited, plays Kelly Clarkson so loud the cops come, and then bolts before you're handed a noise violation, Greene has been a major headache.

But Meek will miss Greene's money. That's because now that Meek has crushed the billionaire's bid for the Democratic nomination for US Senate, he finds himself way behind both in the polls and in fundraising to Republican Marco Rubio and independent Charlie Crist.

Strangely enough, that same disadvantage could make Meek -- Florida's first black Senate nominee and the only major black Senate candidate nationwide -- the new darling of the Democratic party, at least until November.

In a race full of mudslinging, Meek managed to pull himself up out of the muck at the last moment. After trailing Greene by double digits in polls earlier in the summer, Meek finished with more than 57 percent of the vote -- nearly double what Greene could muster.

In many ways, however, the damage may already be done to Meek's campaign. Greene pumped roughly $25 million of his own money into his campaign, pushing Meek to spend the majority of the $7 million he raised on ads late in the race.

As a result, Meek now holds less than $2.6 million in his campaign war chest. Compare that to the $8 million at Crist's disposal or the $4.5 million currently available to Tea Party prodigy Rubio.

And although Greene has pledged to back Meek from here on out, there is little his personal wealth can do to actually "ensure that the failed policies that will be pursued by the two Republicans in this race . . . cannot come back to power in Washington," as he swore last night.

Yet Meek's severe cash disadvantage -- combined with his convincing win in the primary -- could make him the new darling of the Democratic Party, at least until the general election results are in this November. President Obama and ex-prez Bill Clinton have already stumped for Meek in recent weeks. Nationwide, meanwhile, Dems have a fundraising advantage over Repubs, meaning that money is available to spend on important races like Florida's Senate seat.

Meek is also the only major black Senate candidate nationwide. For some Democrats, that could make his campaign a symbolic stand against the Tea Party, which has been accused of racism by the NAACP.

But first, Meek has to show he is worth the effort. Allegations of corruption hurt his campaign early on, until Greene's own indiscretions came to light.

No doubt about it, Meek has a mountain to climb to catch up to Rubio and Crist. It seems like he's already got the message: with the bubbly barely popped, he leaves in the coming days for a state-wide fundraising tour.

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