Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is projected to hold onto his Senate seat in Florida, NBC News and AP reported Tuesday night.
Rubio bested his Democratic challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy (R-FL), cementing a win for Republicans desperate to keep control of the Senate out of Democrats’ hands.
The result is consistent with polls that have showed Rubio ahead for the duration of the race, although his lead had lessened in recent weeks. TPM’s PollTracker average showed him leading Murphy by 4.5 points on Election Day.
The race in Florida has been a relatively short one. After losing his presidential primary run, Rubio vowed to take a break from politics and return to private life after his stint in the Senate ended. But in June, he announced just before the filing deadline that he would indeed run to keep his seat, perhaps at the urging of top Republicans who were reportedly eager to keep a young and popular senator among their ranks.
Murphy also proved to be a less than formidable challenger for Rubio. For his part, Murphy had a rough primary contest, making national headlines in June after it was discovered he may have embellished part of his resume as a certified public accountant who had a contract to clean up Gulf oil. He attempted to wave off these criticisms when Rubio invoked them during a debate by saying they’d been debunked by Politifact; the site released an article pointing out that they did not, in fact, debunk those claims.
Like in most Senate races this cycle, the specter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump loomed over Rubio’s bid. While Rubio denounced Trump during the primary, he’d since come around to the real estate mogul, saying he’d vote for Trump and that he feels Trump would settle into the commander-in-chief role given time.
President Barack Obama routinely targeted Rubio in recent weeks as he campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Florida. The President talked up Murphy and took jabs at the Republican senator by using Rubio’s flip-flopping on Trump against him, invoking insults that Rubio deployed against Trump in the Republican primary.
“I agree with the U.S. senator, a Republican, who a while back said that we can’t afford to give the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual,” Obama said during one rally. “By the way, you know who said that? Marco Rubio!”
“Say it again!” an attendee at the rally shouted.
“Do you want me to say it again?” Obama asked. “He said, Marco Rubio said, this was a dangerous con artist who spent a lifetime, spent a career, sticking it to working people! Now that begs the question, since we’re in Florida: why does Marco Rubio still plan to vote for Donald Trump?”
That new-found camaraderie was a point of contention during Senate debates, where Murphy attempted to pin Rubio to Trump. Rubio countered by saying that he would stand up to either Clinton or Trump, no matter who was elected president.
“If there are any kids in America who understand what a horrifying choice America has in this election cycle, it’s mine, because they’ve lived through it over the last 14 months,” Rubio said during the debate, according to Politico. “It’s not just my children. I feel terrible for the young people across America I run in to every day that tell me this is the first time I’m ever going to vote and what they have before them are two deeply flawed candidates.”