Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will return to Washington after decisively turning back Democrat challenger Rep. Val Demings’ (D-Fla.) bid for an upset in their U.S. Senate race.
According to a projection by Decision Desk HQ, Rubio garnered 56.4 percent, 3.7 million votes, to Demings’s 42.5 percent, 2.8 million, with 86 percent of the votes counted as of press time, to secure a third six-year term in the Senate, and his second as the state’s senior member in the upper chamber.
The Rubio-Demings race was one of 34 U.S. Senate elections on ballots across the country, but the Florida Republican was never considered among vulnerable incumbents being tested in midterm elections where both parties hoped to secure a majority to break the current 50-50 deadlock.
Rubio, 51, a Miami native elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving eight years in the Florida House, including as House Speaker 2006-08, proclaimed in campaign speeches that his reelection was part of a midterm “red wave” set to sweep across Florida and the nation.
A 27-year career law enforcement officer and former Orlando police chief elected to the House in 2016, Demings ran a spirited campaign but was always the underdog with elections forecaster FiveThirtyEight giving Rubio an 86 percent chance of winning. Rubio also led in all polls since June, with his advantages ranging between 6-to-12 percentage points.
Rubio won despite Demings’ campaign raising $25 million more than the incumbent’s. According to its Oct. 19 Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filing, Demings’ campaign raised $72.3 million, spent $68 million, and had $4.92 million in cash on hand.
In Rubio’s same-day FEC filing, its campaign reported raising $46.6 million, spending $42.67 million, and having $4.1 million in cash on hand.
But the money advantage did not pay dividends at the ballot box, where in Florida there are now 300,000 more registered Republican voters than those registered as Democrats. In 2018, Democrats had 260,000 more registered voters than the GOP did in the Sunshine State.
By John Haughey