Here’s what you need to know about Florida’s U.S. Senate race:
- The race between incumbent Dem. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott has been neck-and-neck for weeks, with Nelson pulling ahead slightly in recent polls.
- Democrats came into the day with edge in early turnout, but the race could come down to which party gets the most voters to the polls on Tuesday.
12:24 a.m. Our story about Scott’s victory.
12:16 a.m. From Nelson’s campaign spokesman:
That's it. Nelson concedes. Spokesman: "This is obviously not the result Senator Nelson's campaign has worked hard for. The senator will be making a full statement tomorrow to thank all those who rallied for his cause." Fin.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
12:15 a.m. Nelson concedes. It’s over.
12:11 a.m. From Orlando, where a shrinking crowd awaits word.
Past midnight. Still nothing from the Nelson camp. Bartenders have closed shop, some TV cameras are packing up and supporters have dwindled to maybe a dozen.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
11:58 p.m Scott’s speech is over. Nothing from the Nelson camp yet.
11:57 p.m. From Scott’s speech.
Florida’s newest U.S. senator, Rick Scott, chokes up as he mentions his late mother, Esther, and Jeri Bustamante, a former aide who died in a Miami boating accident the day before he began his campaign pic.twitter.com/3bayOb0Ghe— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
Rick Scott cites “all those inaccurate polls” in the Senate race. “Florida is the envy of the United States,” he says, criticizing “socialism” by opponents.— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
Scott: “We will change, like we did in Florida, the direction of Washington, D.C.” pic.twitter.com/eJs4C1CwlF— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
11:53 p.m. In Orlando, Nelson supporters haven’t heard yet that Scott is declaring victory.
This message hasn't trickled down to Nelsonland just yet — still waiting to hear from the senator. https://t.co/hg20BwnbmW— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
11:50 p.m. From the ballroom in Naples.
Thunderous ovations in Naples as Rick Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, tells crowd: “I’m excited to tell you that we’ve had a big win”— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
11:49 p.m. Scott about to address the crowd in Naples.
11:47 p.m Rick Scott has declared victory.
11:36 p.m. Nelson is waiting for the Broward County votes to be counted.
Nelson not conceding yet as outstanding votes on thumb drives in Broward County are still being processed.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
11:30 p.m. Scott is up by about 57,000 votes.
Scott -- 50.36 percent
Nelson -- 49.64 percent
11:26 p.m. Scott’s crowd still waiting for Scott.
A happy crowd is still at Rick Scott’s Naples party, but there is still no sign of the candidate pic.twitter.com/zCRCR2StmS— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
11:25 p.m. The mystery appears to have been solved.
OK, so the preliminary Palm Beach County results Nelson staff have up now are correct. They wanted to highlight a discrepancy between those results and what CNN was reporting, which was 100K off. All good now.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
11:18 p.m. More on the Palm Beach County numbers mystery.
The web page Nelson staff have pulled up shows unofficial Palm Bch Co results with Nelson at 58.2 percent of the vote with 862 of 871 precincts reporting. Site says “includes early ballots, doesn’t include absentee + provisional ballots.” No context given to the crowd here yet.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
11:08 p.m. Florida being Florida? We might be here for a while.
At Nelson HQ, Dan McLaughlin takes the mic. Says “We’ve been in touch with CNN...” 100,000 votes have been added to Scott’s tally in Palm Beach Co. “We don’t know how or why.” Also, 7 precincts in Broward with results on thumb drive still being counted.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
Nelson staffer says these are the vote totals right now “as we know it” in Palm Beach Co. Scott 235,662. Nelson 328,658. Unclear what’s happening. People now gathering. pic.twitter.com/KRUy6M1p9D— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
10:59 p.m. Many in the crowd of Nelson supporters in the Orlando ballroom have gone home.
This is all the crowd we’ve got left at Nelson HQ in Orlando. The projection screen is being lowered. Just a few people sitting in front of TVs. CNN at extreme volume. pic.twitter.com/eRaXG8utd7— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
10:46 p.m. Here’s part of the reason why the votes could be taking so long to count. The Times Zack Sampson reports:
An NBC journalist in Broward County reported that seven precincts there could not electronically submit votes and had to physically transport jump drives to election headquarters, holding up tabulation.
10:40 p.m. Here are the counties still counting votes.
9 Fla. counties left with votes outstanding:Alachua - 95 percent inBroward - 98Collier -- 95Hillsborough - 98Leon -- 98Monroe -- 94Miami/Dade -- 98Osceola - 93Volusia -- 99— Skip Foster (@skipfoster) November 7, 2018
10:25 p.m. Scott remains ahead by more than 60,000 votes with only a handful of counties still counting votes.
Scott -- 4,026,282
Nelson -- 3,965,820
10:06 p.m. Fun with numbers.
Correction: Scott's lead over Nelson at 10 p.m. is 64,061, compared to his 2014 victory by 64,165.— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
9:48 p.m. Nelson crowd starting to thin out.
The crowd at the Nelson watch party is thinning and the mood has considerably mellowed. Jake Tapper: “The big blue wave is not there.” pic.twitter.com/ajTbDg5Kw3— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
9:44 p.m. Could Rick Scott break 50 percent for the first time? It’s starting to seem likely.
Rick Scott has not broken 50% in two races for governor. But he’s there at the moment pic.twitter.com/A3tUrPThVP— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
9:39 p.m. Rick Scott continues to lead by about 75,000 votes.
A bit of a lull sets in at Rick Scott’s party. He has a lead, but all the votes aren’t counted pic.twitter.com/i5fO0M5PrF— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
Recognize him? It’s former Rep. Connie Mack — the last guy to run against Bill Nelson. He too thinks Rick Scott will win pic.twitter.com/hHueWEBel1— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
9:30 p.m. Nelson supporters at his Orlando event hold out hope as counties get close to finishing counting all the votes.
Talked to voter Angela Harris, who dyed her ponytail blue for tonight. She's hoping the blue wave that would lift up Nelson is just late to arrive. “I’m feeling uneasy because the race has turned. I’m still hopeful that we’ll win, but you know, Florida is always very tricky.”— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
Voter Kristen Weick just put things pretty well, waiting nervously for results at Nelson HQ: “We just have no clue. We have no idea. The country is so divided that we don’t really know what’s going to happen. I can be hopeful, but hesitant.”— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
9:05 p.m. Last ditch effort by Andrew Gillum to get democrats to stay in line to vote.
As DeSantis leads Gillum — by the narrowest of margins — Gillum urges those still in line to stay so they can vote even though polls have technically closed. It's going to be a long night. https://t.co/j9NorzqNSD— Elizabeth Koh (@elizabethrkoh) November 7, 2018
8:54 p.m. Nelson supporters on edge as Scott pulls ahead by more than 50,000 votes. Heavily democratic Broward County still counting tens of thousands of votes.
Mood at Nelson HQ is a bit incongruous with the current Senate race standing, now rolling on mute as FL House candidate Anna Eskamani, daughter of Iranian immigrants, is delivering an impassioned victory speech.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
“Only 51 percent of Broward? CMON BROWARD! CMON BROWARD!” a woman starts shouting at the TV. Scott up 50.4 percent. It’s hot in here.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
8:48 p.m. How long will it take to decide some of these close races?
#FloridaElection is so close. DeSantis up (49.65% to 49.13%) on Gillum in race for governor. Scott up (50.39% to 49.61%) on Nelson for Senate. Are there enough votes in South Florida to help the Democrats? Or will the Blue Wave be stopped? Will we even know by midnight?— Jim Ross (@jimrossOSB) November 7, 2018
8:40 p.m. Pinellas County voted in favor of Bill Nelson. With all precincts reporting:
Nelson -- 52.3 percent
Scott -- 47.3 percent
Write in -- 0.4 percent
8:36 p.m. With all 110 precincts counted, Pasco County voted strongly in favor of Rick Scott.
Scott -- 57.32 percent
Nelson -- 42.19 percent
Write in -- 0.49 percent
8:25 p.m. Hillsborough’s votes are nearly all in.
Big jump in Hillsborough County (home of Tampa). 323 of 390 precincts now reporting.SenateNelson (D): 53.7Scott (R): 45.96GovGillum (D): 53.6DeSantis (R): 45.06— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) November 7, 2018
8:22 p.m. It’s a close one for sure.
Wolf Blitzer on CNN on the FL Senate race at 50-50: “It’s a virtual tie right now. It’s changed a lot in the last 20, 30 minutes.” Scott ahead by some 4,000 votes. Nelson supporters watching, huddled, as commentators zoom in and out of key counties. pic.twitter.com/vvRLehKpLc— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
This is the kind of night it is so far. It’s Florida pic.twitter.com/01Kmmlznun— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
7:55 p.m. Rick Scott is doing better in Hillsborough County than Donald Trump two years ago.
Rick Scott is actually doing BETTER than Donald Trump's 2016 Hillsborough Co performance (he lost here). BUT, with 1/4 precincts in, Bill Nelson is 3 points ahead of Clinton's 2016 finish. It looks like he's picked up the Gary Johnson/Jill Stein votes.— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) November 7, 2018
7:48 p.m. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Nelson supporters are liking what they see in Pinellas County.
A county Trump won by just over a point https://t.co/ya4WpCm6mS— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) November 7, 2018
7:45 p.m. The ballroom in Naples where Scott will appear later this evening is filling up.
The scene at Rick Scott’s election night party in Naples pic.twitter.com/yEX67PRFCQ— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 7, 2018
7:27 p.m. The Times' Steve Contorno makes a good point about Hillsborough County and its fallen status as a bellwether county.
Keep in mind, Hillsborough in 2016 was NOT the bellwether it usually is. It was one area of Florida where Clinton actually did really well. https://t.co/ftBJTyd3iy— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) November 7, 2018
7:19 p.m. From Orlando, where the Times' Claire McNeill is with the Nelson campaign. Things are changing quickly.
CNN just rolled out the first *preliminary* results from Florida, showing 55.4 percent for Scott and 44.6 percent for Nelson. A "whoa" just went around the room, where people are still filing in, just starting in on glasses of wine.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
CNN now at deafening volumes here at Nelson HQ, energy buzzing. Scott was ahead, but: "No longer. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent is now ahead by 67,000 votes..." Cheers break out. And louder cheers when Gillum surges ahead.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 7, 2018
7:15 p.m. Nelson has pulled ahead in Pinellas County, too, though there are many votes still to be counted. With 5 percent of precincts and early votes counted:
Nelson -- 156,689
Scott -- 135,170
7:11 p.m. With nearly 346,000 votes counted, Bill Nelson has a commanding lead in Hillsborough County, which went heavily for Hillary Clinton two years ago.
Nelson - 190,587
Scott - 154,306
7:07 p.m. A dispatch from the Times' Claire McNeill, who is covering Bill Nelson’s campaign in Orlando:
Stay at home mom Rebecca Brown, 40, and Kathy Argabright, a 49-year-old retired firefighter and union president, were counting on a clean sweep for Democrats. They appreciated Nelson’s clean campaign and approachability.
“He didn’t do what Scott did, which is bashing back and forth,” Argabright said. “His door’s always open. He always takes time to talk to you.”
Brown, like many at the Nelson event, lit up at the mention of Gillum, rattling off compliments: “He’s progressive, very young, a fresh face, a new voice. ... I think some of his momentum will carry over onto Bill Nelson."
She was also shaking off some lingering nerves from the “nightmare” of the 2016 election.
“People got complacent,” she said. “We’re pretty determined this time not to let that happen again.”
7:04 p.m. With more than 120,000 votes counted, Pasco County is going for Rick Scott. Not a big surprise given that two years ago the county voted overwhelmingly for then-candidate Donald Trump.
Scott 55.13 percent
Nelson 44.42 percent
7 p.m. The scene from Naples as local polls close.
The media encampment at Gov. Rick Scott election night headquarters in Naples pic.twitter.com/OWGLyGgM6E— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 6, 2018
6:24 p.m. From the Times' Claire McNeill, who is with the Nelson campaign in Orlando:
Newly minted Floridian Jared West, 29, stood drinking a Bud Light in the Embassy Suites lobby ahead of the Nelson watch party, a donkey pin on his sweater.
Fired up about Andrew Gillum’s progressive push for a higher minimum wage, West’s support for the long-serving Nelson came from a more pragmatic place.
“If Nelson doesn’t win, then we have no chance of taking back the Senate and of stopping some of these really bad things from happening,” said the Windemere engineer. “In any other year, I would have supported someone who ran against him, but this is not that year.”
6:13 p.m. The Times' Steve Bousquet will be reporting from Naples, where Rick Scott’s campaign will be watching the results.
The La Playa resort on the ocean in Naples is Gov. Rick Scott’s election night headquarters pic.twitter.com/i9MQs3rbKR— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 6, 2018
6:10 p.m. Some good advice from the Times' Steve Contorno.
One hour until the polls close in most of Florida. If you're in line by then, STAY IN LINE. You can still vote.Follow @clairemcneill at the Nelson election night party, @stevebousquet at Scott HQs, and myself for the latest results in Florida's U.S. Senate race.— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) November 6, 2018
5:58 p.m. With a few hours to go, Senator Marco Rubio tries to get out the vote.
Only 2 hrs left to vote in most of #Florida, 3 hrs in #Panhandle. The late surge of Democrat votes today is going to make this a VERY close election. @ScottforFlorida & @RonDeSantisFL won’t win if you don’t vote. Get up,go to your voting site & #StayInLine until you vote #Sayfie— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 6, 2018
5:45 p.m. The AP’s Gary Fineout gives some pointers to anyone analyzing President Trump’s importance in the Panhandle.
Ok, let's point this out one more time to national folks - the Panhandle backed @realDonaldTrump in 2016 - but it wasn't much higher than Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump won Fla due to counties such as Lee in SW Florida, Pinellas on the Gulf coast and Lake in central Florida— Gary Fineout (@fineout) November 6, 2018
5:37 p.m. From our reporter @ClaireMcNeill in Orlando with the Bill Nelson campaign.
Polls close at 7 p.m., and that's when doors open here at the Nelson watch party in Orlando. So it'll be a while before we're hearing from supporters of the three-term U.S. senator. https://t.co/dLKyv5n8HP— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 6, 2018
5:31 p.m. Some of President Trump’s tweets about the race in the last couple of days. It’s clear where he stands.
“Bill Nelson is kind of an empty figure in Washington. You never hear his name, he’s never in debates on key issues - he is just under the radar.” Chris Wallace on @FoxNews In other words, Nelson is a “stiff.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2018
In all the time I’ve been President, almost two years, never once did Senator Bill Nelson call me to ask for help for the Great State of Florida. I never see him until election time....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2018
....Lake Okeechobee and all of the hurricane money were a passion for Rick Scott, who called endlessly on behalf of the People of Florida. Vote @ScottforFlorida!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2018
5:18 p.m. Could turnout in the hurricane ravaged Panhandle affect the U.S. Senate race?
As of 4:50 pm, here is the voter turnout in 7 of the 8 Panhandle counties devastated by Hurricane Michael compared to the last midterm in 2014. Election Day is not over. After work rush could still pending and the numbers are close, but lagging those in 2014. pic.twitter.com/BUjLPvAvdi— Ana Ceballos (@anaceballos_) November 6, 2018
4:58 p.m. Here’s where Bill Nelson will be watching results.
Here at the Embassy Suites in Orlando (along with a battalion of TV cameras), where U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be watching election results in his Senate race vs Gov. Rick Scott. CNN on in the background with the “blue wave” question on repeat. Follow @TB_Times for full coverage! pic.twitter.com/bFTc4cUYyc— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) November 6, 2018
Here’s where things stood on turnout going into Tuesday.
4:14 p.m Most of the recent polls had Nelson just ahead going into the last few days, though not all of them. RealClearPolitics has a list of the recent Nelson/Scott polls.
3:41 p.m. Rick Scott was recently in Jacksonville thanking staffers for their help with his campaign.
Great to see so many people getting out the vote in Jacksonville! We’re hearing good things everywhere we go - it’s shaping up to be a good night. pic.twitter.com/hMrniH5KkU— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) November 6, 2018
Bill Nelson has been tweeting in English and Spanish, hoping to ensure his supporters go to the right place to vote.
3:21 p.m. Our politics teams is spread out across Florida covering this hotly contested race for U.S. Senate between Senator Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott. Our team of reporters is spread out across the state, following the candidates and talking to voters. Follow along as we track the results. Interested in the governor’s race? Follow those candidates on our blog.
Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor as a Dem candidate, casts his vote w/ his kids Caroline and Jackson this morning. If he wins, he'll be the state’s first Democratic governor in two decades and the first Black governor for Florida. @nytimes pic.twitter.com/NC59o7UZCc— gabriella angotti-jones✨ (@gabriellaangojo) November 6, 2018
One way or the other, Rick Scott and Bill Nelson will make history Tuesday https://t.co/aiyzXg2ymb— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 6, 2018