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Meek Inching Closer to Frontrunner Status

It would be one thing if a South Florida paper was heralding U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek as the frontrunner in the U.S. Senate's Democratic primary for 2010. It's a far more auspicious thing that a Tampa Bay paper is making that claim, albeit with some hesitation. Along with Orlando, Jacksonville and the Florida panhandle, Tampa Bay is a region that may not be familiar with a congressman whose district is in South Florida. There's no better way to introduce himself than as the frontrunner.

The Miami U.S. representative already has won significant endorsements from the Service Employees International Union in Florida and the United Teachers of Dade, and on Friday former President Bill Clinton headlined a second Meek fundraiser, raising about $90,000.
In mid-January, Meek became the first major figure from either party to declare his candidacy. In the nearly two months since, he has made the most of his head start.

That momentum may have a discouraging effect on Democratic Party fence-sitters, like U.S. Rep Ron Klein and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. For Meeks' main Democratic rival, State Sen. Dan Gelber, it may mean tougher sledding on the campaign fund-raising trail.

On the Republican side, former Speaker of the House Marco Rubio is the leading Republican candidate, but only till Charlie Crist announces his candidacy. That seems almost inevitable given the short-term fixes Crist has called for in treating Florida's ailing economy. The long-term picture is bleak, and if the governor doesn't bail out soon his political fortunes just might sink with this ship.

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Thomas Francis

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