Published: Oct 12, 2010 11:08 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 12, 2010 7:58 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Florida governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Charlie Crist says a vote for Democratic rival Kendrick Meek is essentially a vote for Republican Marco Rubio.

"It sure looks like it," Crist said. "Regretably, that would be the case."

Crist is the third man in a three-way race for the Senate.  The governor is running as an Independent. 

His comments spread quickly on the campaign trail.  Representative Meek was in Ft. Myers for three stops Tuesday.

"He needs to man up," Meek said of Crist's comments. "He needs to leader up and run his own race.  Don't try to come over and eat off my plate."

Crist and Meek are both vying for important Democratic votes.  But analyst say as long as the party is split between two candidates, neither can beat Republican, Marco Rubio.

Recent polls show Rubio with a sizeable lead over both Crist and Meek. 

Meek, who has continually lagged a few points behind runner-up Crist, denied rumors he may drop out of the race.

"I'm out here to win," Meek said, adding it wouldn't be the first time the polls were wrong.  Meek was considered the underdog in the August primary election.

"I was ten points down in the primary, and people said 'this guy can't win,'" Meek said.  "Now I stand here as the Democratic nominee.  That is possible again in Florida."