The 2012 election is over. Here's a look at the winners and losers.
Marco Rubio. Florida's junior senator already has a trip planned to Iowa next week, and no wonder. After the drubbing Republicans took among Hispanic voters, the charismatic Miami-Dade conservative looks like just what the party needs to stay relevant in an increasingly diverse country.
George Will summed it up: "If there's a winner tonight, it's the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, because all eyes are now going to be turned to him as a man who might have a way to broaden the demographic appeal of this party."
Obama's Florida campaign team: Widely written off as likely to lose Florida, the team worked endlessly with a vast army of volunteers to put those 29 electoral votes in President Barack Obama's column. The central core of that team: state director Ashley Walker; political director Reggie Cardozo; field director John Gilbert; senior adviser Jackie Lee; voter protection director Hannah Fried; general election director Nick Buis; and communications director Eric Jotkoff.
Castor family: Former Education Commissioner Betty Castor has much to be proud of. Not only did Kathy Castor easily win re-election to her Tampa Bay congressional seat, but sister Karen Castor Dentel won a tough state House race in the Orlando area.
Science: Pinellas County voters overwhelmingly voted to replace two county commissioners, Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, who voted to stop adding fluoride to the public water supply. Local elected officials may think twice before they side with a small group of vocal extremists over mainstream science.
Florida voters: No one in America in 2012 should have to wait in line six to eight hours to cast a ballot. Hats off to those of you who did and to those of you still voting in Miami-Dade at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Rod Smith and Scott Arceneaux: The Florida Democratic Party chairman and executive director can point to mighty impressive results: Obama and Sen. Bill Nelson winning; gaining four congressional seats; picking up five state House and two state Senate seats. Now the real challenge is, can they mount such a strong effort in a non-presidential election year.
Charlie Crist. The former Republican governor, now an independent, went all in to help Obama win Florida, raising loads of money, attending countless rallies, speaking at the convention, even cheering on voters waiting in line to cast ballots. Whether he decides to run as a Democrat for governor, considers a job offer in the administration, or simply goes back to practicing law, Crist is probably Obama's favorite Florida politician at this point.
Patrick Murphy. The odds never looked great for the Democrat running against Republican firebrand Allen West in South Florida, but Murphy managed to prevail over West's $17 million campaign machine.
Gov. Rick Scott. Mitt Romney treated him like he had a contagious disease most of the year, keeping Florida's unpopular governor far away from most presidential campaign appearances. Despite that shoddy treatment, when Scott had an opportunity to show common-sense decency to average Floridians — by extending early voting hours or locations — he instead opted to embrace the mantle of hard-line partisanship, unwilling to do anything that might weaken Romney's chances.
Connie Mack IV. He ran one of the sorriest campaigns Florida has seen in years, relying almost entirely on the name he shares with his father, shallow slogans that last resonated in the 1980s and more than $25 million in spending by outside groups. The good news for C IV is that he'll get to spend more quality time with his wife: U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California lost her re-election bid.
Deborah Clark. Another election, another major mistake in Pinellas, this time featuring thousands of robocalls reminding people to vote Wednesday. Sadly, such mistakes have become all too predictable in Pinellas.
Tampa Bay Times/Mason-Dixon poll. Our polls didn't just miss the bull's-eye, they missed the entire target.
Pam Bondi. All of Florida's top officials are Republicans — Gov. Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Bondi, but only Bondi fully embraced the mantle of a tea party darling who often seemed more interested in FOX News hits than doing her day job.
Florida Republican hubris. Legislative leaders clogged up the ballot with lengthy constitutional initiatives, and they changed voting laws to make it harder for Democrats to register voters on a mass scale or bank as many in-person, early votes. Ultimately, the party lost its super majorities in the Legislature, saw Nelson and Obama win Florida, while inconveniencing and antagonizing thousands of Floridians. What's more, those ballot initiatives represented much of the GOP agenda, from expanding vouchers to restricting abortions to restricting revenues — and Floridians rejected them.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.