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Republicans DeSantis, Rubio cruise to reelection in Florida

FILE - Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses attendees during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 22, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
FILE - Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses attendees during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 22, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
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Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio both fended off challenges from Democratic opponents to win reelection.

Both are considered to be potential presidential candidates in 2024. DeSantis is one of the leading potential candidates in public polling behind former President Donald Trump, though he has not said much publicly about whether he will announce a presidential bid.

As Florida's governor, DeSantis has embraced cultural issues like critical race theory, transgender rights, abortion and corporations' political stances. He has also gone head-to-head with the White house on a number of issues, most prominently on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

DeSantis alluded to many of the cultural issues he hinged his record and campaign on in his victory speech.

"We chose facts over fear. We chose education over indoctrination. We chose law and order over rioting and disorder," the governor said. "Florida was a refuge of sanity when the world went mad. We stood as a citadel of freedom for people across this country and indeed across the world."

DeSantis' reelection was widely expected by political forecasters and analysts as he enjoyed a high approval rating in an increasingly Republican-leaning state. Significant pieces of his campaign season were spent raising money and stumping for other candidates as he continues to build his national profile as the potential successor to Trump in Republican presidential politics.

He gained national attention after spending almost $1 million in taxpayer funds to transport migrants who entered the country illegally to Martha's Vineyard and Illinois to criticize the Biden administration's immigration policies.

The governor took a shot at the Democratic-controlled government in Washington and hit on other themes in national politics like crime and pandemic lockdowns.

"While our country flounders due to failed leadership in Washington, Florida is on the right track," he said. "I believe the survival of the American experiment requires a revival of true American principles."

Though DeSantis has not addressed whether he will run for president in 2024, Trump has taken notice as his chief rival in a hypothetical primary. Trump is expected to announce a third presidential bid next week after he told his supporters he would be giving a "big announcement" next week at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

DeSantis defeated Democrat Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who switched to the Democratic party. In his concession speech after the race was called for DeSantis, Crist congratulated the governor for winning reelection and wished him well in his next term.

"Gov. DeSantis, to you and your family, I wish you only the best," Crist said. "I wish the best for my fellow Floridians because I love this state, I love her with all my heart and you're great, good, decent, kind people and you deserve nothing better than the very best that God has to offer."

Rubio beat Democratic Rep. Val Demings to retain his Senate seat, becoming the first from the state to win three consecutive terms in the chamber. He was outspent by Demings, though Florida's continue tilt toward Republicans in recent years made up the difference as he cruised to victory by a wide margin.

Since his first election to the Senate, Florida has gone through a transition from the nation's largest swing state to Republican-leaning. In his last Senate campaign, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by over 327,000 voters. This election, Republicans had 300,000 more registered voters than Democrats.

"The source of our greatness is not our elections, the source of our greatness is not our government. The source of our greatness is not our military power, though we need it and it's not our wealth that we celebrate, the source of our greatness is our people," Rubio said in his victory speech. "A special and unique people are like people anywhere else on the Earth. Because here, being an American is not a race. It's not an ethnicity, it's not where your parents are born. Being an American is the defining principle of our nation."

Rubio ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and won Minnesota's primary before ultimately dropping out.

Demings told a crowd of supporters she had called Rubio to concede and accepted the will of the state's voters.

"I have spoken with Sen. Rubio, and I congratulated him and said to him that Florida is our home state, and please continue to work hard for the place we call home," Demings said. "Florida, you all know me, and I stand by the decision of the people. We are a government of the people, for the people and by the people."

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a close Trump ally, won reelection to his House seat in northwestern Florida.

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