Politico

Rubio beats Demings to secure a 3rd term in the Senate

TAMPA, Fla. — Sen. Marco Rubio won a third term in the Senate on Tuesday after defeating Democrat Rep. Val Demings in a key race that saw the candidates clash on abortion, gun rights and President Joe Biden.

Rubio’s victory keeps him in contention for a possible 2024 presidential bid while also giving him a pathway for a major role in the Senate if Republicans regain control following the midterms. Rubio (R-Fla.) currently serves as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Demings (D-Fla.), who gave up her relatively safe Orlando-area seat in Congress to take on the incumbent, outraised Rubio even as the senator consistently was ahead of her in most polls. Demings tried to appeal to moderates by stressing her experience as a former police chief while at same time hammering Rubio as “extreme” due to his opposition to abortion.

She was a rising star in the party: President Joe Biden considered her for his running mate during the 2020 presidential cycle, and she served as an impeachment manager during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment inquiry.

But Rubio’s campaign hammered her endlessly as being in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Biden contended that she was too radical for voters in a state that has been growing increasingly Republican.

“In order to succeed in today’s Democratic Party, you have to be for the agenda that those groups are for. So they go to Washington, and they vote like Demings has, 100 percent with Pelosi,” Rubio said during a late October appearance on Fox News. “She not just cosponsored, but voted for this very radical, virtually communist budget in her first two years there. … Their argument is this: ‘We can vote like leftists, and we’ll raise enough money to confuse people and campaign like a centrist.’”

Rubio ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016, where he was ridiculed and crushed by Trump. But Rubio made amends with Trump and became a leading voice in guiding the former president’s policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. Two days before Election Day, Trump hosted a rally for Rubio in Miami.

Demings had been weighing a challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis but surprised many top Florida Democrats by instead running against Rubio. She outspent him on television ads and hit the senator with ads that took aim at Rubio’s attendance record in Congress.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion protections under Roe v. Wade, Demings assailed Rubio after he said he favored a complete ban on abortion with no exceptions. Rubio also signed on as a co-sponsor to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) bill that would impose a federal ban on all abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but with exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

Demings also went after Rubio’s stance on gun control in a state that had been the site of two high-profile mass shootings in the past six years.

During their lone debate in October, Rubio acknowledged that he did not support raising the minimum age to purchase a rifle despite previously backing such a proposal in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, where 17 people were killed. Rubio argued that such regulations would do little to stop future shootings.

“How long will you watch people being gunned down in first grade, fourth grade, high school, college, church, synagogue, the grocery store, a movie theater, a mall and a nightclub, and do nothing?” Demings said during the debate.

Rubio’s campaign, however, successfully outmaneuvered Demings by lining up significant law enforcement support across the state — including cutting hard-hitting ads that included local sheriffs questioning her support for police. Rubio also stressed his legislative record, including his role in helping craft the Paycheck Protection Program and maintained that Demings had little to show for her time in Congress.

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