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Marco Rubio to seek Senate reelection, but will Floridians want him back?

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is running for reelection. Despite losing the state's Republican primary for president, initial polling shows Senator Rubio ahead Democratic counterparts. 

Joshua Lim/Orlando Sentinel/AP/File
Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, pictured here after paying his respects to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 16, announced he would be running for re-election.

Marco Rubio announced Wednesday that he will seek reelection to the Senate, reversing months of statements made during and after his presidential campaign that he would either be president or a private citizen in January.  

The development was celebrated by Republicans, who say Senator Rubio's candidacy will make it easier for them to win the seat and retain control of the Senate. Democrats, however, have already started attacking Rubio for having missed votes in the Senate and having ignored Floridians as he built his national profile before and during his presidential bid that culminated in his defeat in the Florida Republican primary. 

In a statement announcing his candidacy, Rubio wrote that control of the Senate could come down to Florida. He said Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are "reason to worry" and the Senate has an important role as a check and balance "on the excesses of a president."

"No matter who wins the White House, we need a strong group of principled, persuasive leaders in Congress who will not only advance limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense, but also explain to Americans how it makes life better for them and their families," he said. "I ultimately changed my mind about this race because on that front, and in that fight, I believe I have something to offer." 

Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday puts Rubio ahead of Democratic congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, by 7 and 8 percent, respectively. Rep. Murphy and Rep. Grayson are locked in a close primary race, with Murphy supported by the Democratic establishment, while Grayson is supported by the party's more liberal wing.

The polling showed Murphy and Grayson running well ahead of the lesser-known Republican candidates, who were in the race before Rubio's entry. Rep. David Jolly and current Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera have dropped out, and Rep. Ron DeSantis has said he would consider dropping out if Rubio decided to run, the Washington Post reported.

Two wealthy businessmen in the race, home builder Carlos Beruff and defense contractor Todd Wilcox are planning on remaining in the race, although the Post reports polling puts Rubio well ahead of them in the August primary. 

"With Republican national leaders worried about keeping control of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio might ride to their rescue if he decides to reverse field and seek re-election," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said. "If Rubio's last-minute decision is to seek re-election, he could be in the driver's seat."

Rubio's reelection is certainly not a sure thing, as the Washington Post's Amber Phillips wrote. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump defeated Rubio in the Florida primary by almost 19 percentage points, with 45.7 percent voting for Mr. Trump and 27 percent voting for Rubio. 

Although polls have showed Florida Republicans want Rubio to run, his failed presidential bid (featuring an embarrassing loss in the Florida primary and constant attacks for being scripted and "robotic") could hurt, Ms. Phillips wrote. Also, his comments towards the end of the campaign, such as questioning the size of Trump's hands, could turn away voters.

Polling also has presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton well ahead of Trump in Florida, which could hurt Rubio as the phenomenon of ticket splitting is at its lowest level in recent decades, as the Post reported.   

Democrats (like Republicans in the primary) have started attacking Rubio for his missed votes in the Senate, where he's missed more votes than other US Senator, as Bloomberg reported. He also rarely attends committee hearings, according to Bloomberg. On Friday, a Democratic Super Pac, American Bridge, released a two-and-a-half minute video featuring Rubio complaining about and vowing to leave the Senate on the campaign trail.  

Following his loss in the primary, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat who served with Rubio in the Florida legislature, told the Miami Herald that Floridians wouldn't hold Rubio's failed presidential bid against him. 

“Florida is the land of second and third lives. People come here for that reason," he said. "We have a governor who escaped indictment, OK, to win not only election but reelection. This is not exactly the place that holds things against you.”

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