MIAMI, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Republican incumbent Marco Rubio won a second term in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, beating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in a vote that may tip majority control of the Senate in 2017.
NBC and CBS reported Rubio, 45, eked out a victory to become a two-term U.S. senator. The victory comes after Rubio, seen as an early favorite, faltered in the final weeks of campaigning. In a surprising last-minute turn, Rubio's comfortable lead shrunk to a virtual tie. Both candidates leveraged voter dissatisfaction in the campaign, underscoring their differences on gun laws, healthcare and the economy, to name a few.
Rubio jumped to the front of the polls in June when he decided to seek a second term following a failed bid for president, despite promises not to seek re-election and endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after their contentious political battle. Rubio, a Miami native who is popular in the Hispanic vote, entered the Senate race with name recognition and a core base of supporters.
Murphy, 33, a two-term congressman, took pole position in the race after beating Congressman Alan Grayson in the primary. Rubio's last-minute decision to jump into the race had Murphy scrambling.
Throughout the campaign, Murphy portrayed Rubio as an absentee politician who missed votes and hearings. Murphy repeatedly criticized Rubio for endorsing Trump, who Murphy said is one of "the most racist and bigoted people ever to run for office."
Rubio countered that Murphy failed to do anything in his two terms in the House, and portrayed Murphy as a rich kid who has embellished his resume. to bolster his academic and professional accomplishments.
Perhaps the death knell for Murphy came just weeks before the election, when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled $10 million worth of ad money it had planned to spend to bolster Murphy's bid. About the same time, the Senate Majority Committee canceled $6 million in television ad time for the candidate.
Days before the election, The Hill reported the FBI is investigating an alleged donation scheme tied to Murphy's first run for the House in 2012 and prominent political donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid.