MIAMI — Gov. Rick Scott became Florida’s next senator on Sunday, a feat delayed by a grueling 12-day recount that arrived at the same inexorable truth that emerged deep into election night: Mr. Scott, a Republican who entered the public arena only eight years ago, has become a formidable political force.
After all the vote-tallying, accusation-trading and lawsuit-filing, Mr. Scott’s Democratic opponent, Senator Bill Nelson, accepted defeat once a manual recount showed him still trailing, by 10,033 votes out of more than 8.1 million cast.
Mr. Nelson’s concession brought Florida’s turbulent midterm election to its long-awaited close after a statewide recount did nothing to alter the race’s outcome, other than narrow the margin between candidates in the profoundly divided state.
“Now the campaign truly is behind us, and that’s where we need to leave it,” Mr. Scott, who attended orientation on Capitol Hill last week, said in a statement on Sunday. “We must do what Americans have always done: come together for the good of our state and our country.”
His Senate victory was a relief not only to Mr. Scott but also to national Republican leaders who had feared that their supporters’ morale would plummet if, on the heels of a fairly dismal Election Day for the party, an apparent victory turned into one more loss.
President Trump has declared the midterms a great Republican success, but strategists within the party view the cycle as something of a disappointment, after hopes of gaining as many as four Senate seats dissipated with late victories by Democrats in Montana and Arizona.
The win in Florida gives Republicans a 52-to-47 margin in the Senate. If the party also retains the Senate seat in Mississippi after a Nov. 27 runoff, it will have a 53-to-47 edge, a two-seat pickup for the 2018 cycle.
Much like the infamous recount in Florida in the presidential election of 2000, this year’s recount, a process intended to reaffirm the will of the voters, exposed myriad flaws in the state’s election system, a concern for politicians and campaigns already looking ahead to the next election in 2020. A final certification of Florida’s vote tally is scheduled for Tuesday.
For now, Republicans will savor another victory by Mr. Scott, who has mastered the ability to eke out wins. No politician in the state’s recent history has as enviable a record: Mr. Scott is unbeaten in three consecutive statewide contests, two for governor and one for senator.
His margin has shrunk with each victory — he beat Alex Sink by 1.2 percentage points in 2010, Charlie Crist by 1 point in 2014, and Mr. Nelson by 0.1 of a point. But this year, for the first time, he obtained a majority of the vote, 50.1 percent.
Behind Mr. Scott’s victories lies his vast personal wealth. He and his wife, Ann, put more than $70 million into his first campaign for governor and nearly $13 million into his second; this year, Mr. Scott spent more than $50 million on the Senate race. But as a candidate, Mr. Scott, who is not known for his charisma, did more than just open his checkbook: He campaigned incessantly and stayed relentlessly on message, casting Mr. Nelson as a do-nothing has-been who had to be retired.
Mr. Nelson admitted in a concession statement that “things worked out a little differently” than he had hoped.
“I by no measure feel defeated, and that’s because I’ve had the privilege of serving the people of Florida and our country for most of my life,” he said. “To all Floridians, whether you voted for me, or for my opponent, or you didn’t vote at all, I ask you to never give up this fight.”
He did not mention Mr. Scott by name.
Though Mr. Nelson, 76, was a three-term incumbent from Orlando, he had less name recognition than Mr. Scott, 65, a multimillionaire former hospital executive from Naples. Mr. Scott made much of his wealth leading the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which during his tenure was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud, an issue that forced him out of his job.
Mr. Nelson, a centrist who was first elected to the State House in 1972, was not particularly exciting to the increasingly young, progressive Democratic base, and he never quite seemed comfortable seizing the spotlight.
With the denouement of Mr. Nelson’s political career comes the end of the era of Democratic moderates who knew how to win in Florida, a state now as polarized as the rest of the country. Even his Republican counterpart in the Senate, Marco Rubio, bid Mr. Nelson farewell with glowing praise. Mr. Rubio backed Mr. Scott, though the men have never been especially close.
“No two senators from the same state had a better working relationship than the one Senator Nelson and I had,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement. “I will miss working with him very much.”
During the campaign, Mr. Scott carefully distanced himself from Mr. Trump in an election that turned heavily on voters’ dislike for the president’s administration. Over the course of his eight years as governor, he also tempered his Tea Party conservatism somewhat, shifting to support more moderate measures on guns and immigration. But he embraced Mr. Trump’s bombastic style after Election Day, when it came to claiming rampant fraud nobody could prove.
Among Florida’s disputed elections was also the governor’s race between Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who conceded on Saturday, two days after a machine recount confirmed that Mr. DeSantis had won. Under Florida law, three statewide races required machine recounts, but only the senator and agriculture commissioner races were close enough after that to also require a manual recount.
Sunday’s results in the agriculture commissioner contest showed Nikki Fried, a Democrat, ahead of Matt Caldwell, a Republican, by 6,753 votes, or 0.08 of a percentage point. In a statement, Ms. Fried, who would be the only Democrat elected to statewide office in Florida this year, thanked Mr. Caldwell, who has yet to concede.
“It’s now time for us to come together and work in union to govern for the people of Florida,” said Ms. Fried, who campaigned on making medical marijuana more accessible and tightening procedures to obtain concealed weapons permits.
On Sunday, troubled Broward County met the noon deadline for its manual recount tally, after having missed the machine recount deadline on Thursday by two minutes. The relative success prompted a round of applause inside the county elections office.
Broward’s machine recount came up more than 2,000 votes short of initial tallies, which left the canvassing board in the position of having to decide which set of results to use. Brenda C. Snipes, the elections supervisor, said the missing ballots were probably misfiled with another stack of ballots. Officials decided to submit the original tally, completed on Nov. 10, in addition to whatever overseas and military ballots had been received since then.
Dr. Snipes, a Democrat who has faced calls for her ouster over her handling of the election, submitted her resignation on Sunday, according to The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida, though it was not clear when she might step down.
In neighboring Palm Beach County, which has not upgraded its vote-counting machines in 11 years, the elections supervisor, Susan Bucher, acknowledged last week that she would be unable to meet the Sunday deadline for all races. Instead, her office completed the manual recount in the Senate race and, as ordered by a federal judge, spent Sunday reviewing ballots in a State House race in which the candidates were separated by 37 votes.
Mike Caruso, the Republican in that race, found himself in the lead by 32 votes after the review, and said he was heading home to pack for Tallahassee, where he expects to be sworn in on Tuesday. Jim Bonfiglio, his Democratic opponent, noted he has 10 days to consider any further legal action.
Under state law, Palm Beach County will have to eventually complete the manual recounts in the races for governor and agriculture commissioner, even if the results will come after Tuesday’s certification deadline. Based on how long it took to recount the Senate race — more than five days’ worth of work — Ms. Bucher, a Democrat, said the process could continue well into December.
But that work would begin on Monday. On Sunday, Ms. Bucher said: “I’m tired, and I’m going home to sleep.”
Patricia Mazzei and Frances Robles reported from Miami, and Maggie Astor from New York. Glenn Thrush contributed reporting from Tallahassee, Fla.; Nick Madigan from Lauderhill, Fla., and Jane Smith from Riviera Beach, Fla.