Florida Republican Marco Rubio is projected to win a third term in the U.S. Senate, despite raising and spending millions less than Democrat Val Demings, a former police chief of Orlando.
Rubio, who repeatedly stated during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would not seek a second Senate term if he failed to win the GOP nomination that year, ran a steady but unremarkable campaign that, combined with well-regarded constituent services, paid off in a solid win.
Demings, currently a congresswoman from Orlando, will leave the House in January because Florida does not permit candidates to run for two offices at once. She proved a prodigious fundraiser, having raised more than $65 million, $20 million more than Rubio.
That could not overcome Rubio’s incumbency advantage, however. Demings needed to introduce herself to a state that stretches 850 miles across two time zones and contains 11 separate media markets.
Rubio has been in public office almost all his adult life, winning a seat in the Florida House in a 2000 special election and eventually becoming House speaker before seeking the U.S. Senate seat in 2010. His defeat of the sitting Republican governor, Charlie Crist, made him an instant star in Washington, D.C., and he was quickly touted as the future of the Republican Party.
He ran for president in 2016 even though the better-funded Jeb Bush, a former two-term Florida governor, was also running. Rubio finished better than Bush, but neither could compete against developer and game show host Donald Trump, who won the presidential nomination in the crowded field and narrowly won the presidency.
Although Rubio was among a group of Republicans who originally said they could never support Trump, he quickly came around to back the reality TV personality after he won the nomination and has publicly supported him since, despite Trump’s attempted coup to remain in power on Jan. 6, 2021.
Rubio appeared with Trump at a Miami rally on Sunday, while Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, was not invited — a snub that set off new intrigue about DeSantis’ likely run for the 2024 presidential nomination that Trump is almost certain to seek himself.