As expected, the U.S. Senate race in Florida went down to the wire Tuesday night — a nail-biter the margin of which stayed below 100,000 votes throughout and left open the possibility of an automatic recount.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott claimed victory just before midnight over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Mr. Nelson conceded early Wednesday morning and is expected to address his supporters later in the day.
But his advantage was still only in the tens of thousands of votes. Should neither Mr. Scott nor Mr. Nelson win by a full percentage point, the state will hold a recount, almost certainly recalling the infamous 2000 presidential recount that roiled the Sunshine State and the nation.
In this case, however, the consequences would be less dramatic because the results of other Senate races means the GOP will retain its Senate majority regardless of the Florida result.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Scott had captured 50.4 percent of the vote compared to Mr. Nelson’s 49.6 percent.
Mr. Scott, who poured into his campaign tens of millions of his own money, grabbed the momentum early, defining Mr. Nelson as a do-nothing Washington careerist who was bankrupt of ideas and just a cat’s paw of the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
But Mr. Nelson fought back by attacking Mr. Scott’s fortune, helped by myriad press reports that questioned just how “blind” was the blind trust in which Mr. Scott’s money was being held, and pegging him as a rich opportunist.
The Florida race, and Mr. Scott’s campaign in particular, were complicated by Hurricane Michael which slammed into the state’s Panhandle and Big Bend area last month, causing widespread devastation.
While the storm caused Mr. Scott to suspend his personal involvement in the campaign, and raised fears that voters in a conservative stronghold in the state may have been scattered or perhaps lost interest in politics, it also allowed him to once again demonstrate his calm hand in a crisis.
Those skills had helped Mr. Scott’s image previously after Hurricane Irma, and his apparent narrow victory Tuesday night appeared to be a reward from Floridians for his two steady-hand terms in the governor’s mansion.
Indeed, it was just that which the National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Cory Gardner cited Wednesday morning when he congratulated Mr. Scott.
“During his time as Florida’s governor, Rick Scott has worked tirelessly to turn around Florida’s economy and create good-paying jobs across the state,” Mr. Gardner said. “It’s clear his leadership has not gone unnoticed by Floridians.”