DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — A member of the Kennedy clan said Wednesday that Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek cannot win the Florida Senate race and instead endorsed independent Gov. Charlie Crist.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Crist has a better shot than Meek at beating tea party-backed Republican Marco Rubio, who has a big lead in recent polls.
Kennedy called the Florida Senate race the most critical in the country and urged voters to combat what he calls the radical tea party movement by voting for Crist.
Rubio "has a very radical vision, a very narrow vision, an I-can-be-as-stupid-as-I-want vision of this country, and that has a little bit of appeal to people when they're angry – but it is not a good long-term plan," Kennedy told dozens of people gathered at a South Florida diner for a Crist campaign event.
Asked if Meek should drop out, Kennedy pointed to his dismal poll numbers.
"At some point it becomes clear in political life we all have to make choices that are bigger than ourselves," he said. "I hope that Kendrick will look at the entire landscape as he assesses the future of this election."
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Crist and Meek trailing Rubio by double digits. Rubio had 44 percent of the vote, compared to 30 percent for Crist and 22 percent for Democratic candidate Meek.
Experts say Crist would need the Democrats who are now backing Meek to even have a shot at winning, but Meek insists he has no plans to abandon the race.
Meek campaign spokesman Adam Sharon responded to Kennedy's endorsement by saying Meek has fought to invest in renewable energy and ban offshore drilling.
Kennedy, president of an environmental advocacy organization, called Rubio a "crackpot."
Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Burgos said the attacks prove Crist has broken his promise to end partisan bickering and return civility to Washington. Crist bolted the GOP to run as an independent when it became clear he could not beat Rubio in a primary.
Diners grew emotional Wednesday as Kennedy spoke of his father's 1968 assassination and the train ride he took as a 14-year-old to accompany the body – a story that resonated in an area full of retirees and party faithful.
Bob Weiner, a 40-year-old small business owner eating at the diner, said he will likely vote for Crist now.
Kennedy "is one of the few politicians I actually trust," he said. "The fact that a Democrat was willing to cross a line, it's impressive."
Associated Press Writers Jennifer Kay and Travis Reed contributed from Miami.