PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Former President Clinton on Friday denied reports — confirmed by his spokesman a day earlier — that he asked Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the three-way Florida Senate race to clear the way for independent Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meek says he’s not dropping out, and even if he did it would likely be too late to make a difference: Nearly 2 million people have already voted, and his name would still be on the ballot Tuesday.

Several prominent black Democrats said they believe the fuss is backfiring on Crist and energizing black voters to go to the polls to support Meek, who is black.

Both men trail tea party-backed Republican Marco Rubio, though Meek was in last place according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. The poll showed Rubio with 42 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Crist and 15 percent for Meek.

In Jacksonville, Sen. Tony Hill, who once staged a sit-in with Meek in then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s office complex to protest a plan to do away with affirmative action policies, was outside an early voting site and said he had never seen it so crowded.

“I’ve gotten calls from people saying ‘What’s happening? Is he in the race?’ and I say, ‘He’s in it to win it,’” Hill said.

Meek is accusing Crist of starting rumors that Clinton, his longtime friend, tried to get him to drop out.

“Charlie Crist is trying to win by any means necessary,” Meek said.

Meek said that during Clinton’s swing through Florida to campaign for him and other candidates last week, the former president asked him about reports that he was considering leaving the race.

“I never said I was considering getting out. I said, ‘Mr. President, that is not true,’” Meek said before an event in Orlando.

Clinton said in a statement Friday that he had talked to Meek about the race and its challenges.

“I didn’t ask Kendrick to leave the race, nor did Kendrick say that he would,” Clinton said. “I told him that how he proceeds was his decision to make and that I would support him regardless.”

A day earlier, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna had confirmed a Politico report that Clinton tried to talk Meek into quitting.