After being decimated in the Republican primaries by Donald Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was reelected to a second term on Tuesday by defeating Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
Former presidential candidate Rubio dropped out of the GOP primary in March — he lost his own state by nearly 20 percentage points — and the next month said he was leaving the Senate. He abruptly changed his mind in late June, days after the mass shooting at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. He'd been interviewed by The Advocate in the aftermath and said “I don’t need investigators to tell me the gay community was targeted in this attack.”
Two months after the Pulse massacre, where 49 lives were lost, Rubio appeared at the The American Renewal Project two-day event in Orlando — a notoriously homophobic and transphobic gathering. While Rubio spoke to the evangelical audience about compassion toward LGBT "neighbors," he was blasted as a hypocrite by Nadine Smith of Equality Florida, since the senator opposes anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people from being fired or evicted and supports a federal law allowing businessowners to turn away queer patrons under the guise of "religious liberty." Rubio also opposes marriage equality and adoption of children by LGBT adults.
Even though Trump mocked Rubio by calling him "Little Marco," the Florida senator eventually endorsed the bombastic businessman for president. Rubio, born in Miami to Cuban-American parents, did not often mention Trump's name when he campaigned for reelection, which may have saved his hide with some Latino voters.
Rubio, 45, was able to paint challenger Murphy — a 33-year-old congressman representing south Florida — as inexperienced. Murphy, meanhwile, worked to remind voters of Rubio's abseentism in Congress, something the senator was often taken to task by in the primaries.