After a closely-fought battle and a long night of counting, Alex Sink finally conceded the Florida gubernatorial race to Republican Rick Scott less than an hour ago.  The victory by Scott, a Tea Party favorite who beat a favored Republican, Bill McCollum, in the primary, clinches a sweep by the GOP of statewide offices and control of the legislature, painting Florida red:

Democrat Alex Sink succumbed to the math Wednesday morning, conceding Florida’s razor-thin gubernatorial contest to Republican Rick Scott are a nail-biting overnight drama that saw both candidates waiting for results to trickle in from South Florida.

“There is no path to victory for us,” Sink told a few dozen reporters gathered in a ballroom at the Tampa Marriott Waterside hotel. “Rick Scott will be the next governor of Florida.” …

Scott’s win gives the GOP unprecedented control in Tallahassee, thanks to big wins Tuesday. In the Legislature, Republicans were poised to grow their majorities from 26 seats to perhaps 28 in the 40-member Senate and 81 seats in the 120-member House.

“This is the best number for Republicans since Reconstruction,” said incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Needless to say, this complicates the picture for any Democrat looking to win Florida in the presidential race in two years.   With a solid GOP grip on the state, Democrats will operate at a clear disadvantage in a state that flipped to Barack Obama in 2008.  Also, as the sleazy dealmaking that attempted to push Kendrick Meek out of the Senate race reverberates through the Sunshine State, it’s going to be doubly hard for Democrats, especially Obama, to have much credibility.

Scott and the Republicans have an opportunity to make Florida a “laboratory of democracy” on issues like school choice, health care reform, and government spending.  If they can deliver over the next two years, they have an excellent chance of convincing Floridians to keep the state red in the future.

Update: At the other end of the Atlantic Seaboard, Paul LePage wins the GOP’s 11th gubernatorial pickup in Maine (via Slublog):

The Bangor Daily News is projecting that Republican Paul LePage will be the next governor of Maine, holding a 7,500 vote lead over independent candidateEliot Cutler with just a few precincts yet to report in what turned out to be a nail-biting battle for the Blaine House.

Cutler called LePage to concede the race around 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to Cutler Campaign Manager Ted O’Meara.

Cutler “congratulated him and wished him well,” said O’Meara, although noting the independent’s campaign would reserve the right to request a recount if there were any major changes in the official results, although he did not expect that to happen.

Still out: MN, OR, VT, CT, IL.  Republicans lead in three of the five.