NEW YORK – It was the prizefight of the nation's statehouses and Jeb Bush was declared winner by a knockout in Florida Tuesday.
Easily fending off Democratic opponent Bill McBride's glancing blows, incumbent Bush knocked the Tampa lawyer on his backside with a double-digit margin of victory of 19 percent.
As of 8:35 p.m. ET, with 25 percent of electorate reporting, Bush's way back to Tallahassee was paved with 59 percent of the vote compared to McBride's 40 percent.
The handy victory is a relief for the GOP and big brother President George W. Bush and it deprives the Dems of the black eye they'd hoped to give the Bush family in revenge for the 2000 presidential election -- torturously decided in the Sunshine State.
Both parties' biggest heavyweights took off the gloves for this match. President Bush campaigned for his little brother and urged voters from both parties to return Jeb Bush back to power for another term while Bush’s predecessor, President Clinton, and onetime presidential rival, Al Gore, tried to motivate Dems to head to the polls.
"It's the duel of the presidents," said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor.
The critical issue in the race was education, with Bush defending his record and proposals and McBride playing the role of critical outsider.
Bush had also suffered embarrassing events like the arrest of his daughter on drug charges, but remained upbeat and confident. Observing that Clinton, Gore, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were all stumping in the state for McBride, he said he doubted the four would have any impact on the election.
"Multiply that by 50 and I will take one George W. Bush," he said.
That seemed to work on male voters, who supported Bush with 61 percent. Women were divided 49-49 for Bush and McBride.
Sixty percent of voters with school age children supported Bush.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.