Sen. Rubio Rolls to Third Term, Dashing Demings’s Florida Upset Bid
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.
Rubio pounded away at Demings as a supporter of President Joe Biden’s policies which he said are responsible for a 40-year high in inflation as part of a two-pronged strategy in attacking his opponents’ congressional record while touting his career as a proven, efficacious lawmaker in “I Get Things Done” ads.
His campaign criticized Demings for a voting record that aligns “100 percent” with Biden administration initiatives, emphasized her ties to Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—including her appointment as Trump impeachment manager—and her allegedly weak support for border security.
Demings touted her law enforcement career while campaigning on expanding health care, ensuring abortion access, and on the “danger to Democracy” that Rubio poses as an alleged sycophant of former President Donald Trump.
She argued that Rubio’s malleable values can be manipulated by extremists and that her moderate views better reflect Florida’s values and needs.
Among other faults cited in Demings’ campaign was that Rubio has missed 9.2 percent of his Senate roll call votes, more than three times the chamber average. In “Chief Demings” ads, she described the election as “a choice between a career politician who doesn’t show up for work and a 27-year law enforcement officer with a proven record of delivering for Florida.”
Rubio and Demings faced each other face-to-face only once during the campaign, a televised Oct. 11 debate at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth.