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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is projected to defeat his Democratic rival, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), sending him to a third term in the Senate.

CNN and Fox News called the the race for Rubio at around 8 p.m.

Rubio’s victory is likely to help cement the notion that Florida, a longtime battleground and now the nation’s third largest state, has become reliably Republican territory. 

Demings’s defeat is only the latest on a growing list of Democratic losses in the Sunshine State, coming just four years after Sen. Bill Nelson, a longtime staple of Florida Democratic politics, was ousted from office.

Of course, winning in Florida was never going to be easy for Democrats. For one, the 2022 midterm cycle was long expected to be a punishing one for the party, which went into Election Day with full control of Congress and the White House.

And Rubio has in the past demonstrated an ability to overperform other Republicans in his home turf, Miami-Dade County, a Democratic stronghold in the state.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. His victory is likely to help cement the notion that Florida is a solidly Republican state. (Greg Nash)

But Demings also had other obstacles, most notably the growing Republican advantage in Florida. The GOP surpassed Democrats in voter registration numbers last year, and that advantage has only continued to grow. 

Republicans have also made gains among Hispanic voters in recent years, chipping away at a voting bloc that Democrats once heavily relied on. 

Throughout the campaign, Demings relied on her experience as a former Orlando police chief to hit back at Republican allegations that she was insufficiently supportive of law enforcement. 

Rubio’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), faced a number of obstacles in her campaign, including the growing number of Republican registered voters in Florida. (Associated Press)

At the same time, however, she also struggled with the same attacks that Democrats have faced nationally, namely that President Biden and congressional Democrats bear responsibility for stubbornly high inflation and that the party had staked out extreme positions on everything from abortion rights to public education.

Rubio also had the advantage of name recognition. First elected to the Senate in 2010, he made a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.