Republican Marco Rubio defeated Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek to win Florida's open Senate seat, keeping it with the GOP.
An Associated Press analysis of preliminary exit poll data Tuesday shows that the tea party favorite beat Democratic nominee Meek and Crist, who left the Republican Party earlier this year to run as an independent when polls showed him trailing in a GOP primary. Rubio will replace George LeMieux, who was appointed to the seat by Crist last year after Mel Martinez resigned.
The victory culminates a dramatic rise for Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House who was given little chance to defeat the once-popular Crist when he announced his candidacy last year. Rubio built momentum through tea party rallies and consistent attacks on President Barack Obama's policies.