Early voting begins in Florida as the U.S. election campaign enters the home stretch

2020-10-19T225455Z_637269505_RC2YLJ9MJ3X1_RTRMADP_3_USA-ELECTION-FLORIDA

Florida voters lined up outside polling stations on Monday the first day of the early voting in the battlefield, as 30 million Americans have already cast their ballots in November for the presidential election.

Republican President Donald Trump, who is running out of time to change the dynamics of a race he looks set to lose, fought in Arizona on Monday amid signs that Democrats led the rise in early voting.

In a conference call with campaign staff, Trump showed characteristic self-confidence in describing the race, regardless of national polls showing him far behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“We win,” he said. “I would not have told you that maybe two, three weeks ago.”

Trump appears to be cutting into Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania, one of the main battlefields of the election, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll released Monday. The survey showed that Biden led 49% to 45% in this state, a margin 3 points narrower than last week. The poll also found that Biden led in Wisconsin 51% to 43%.

At least 30 million votes either per. Post or personal had been recorded in 44 states and Washington, DC, by mid-afternoon Monday, according to the U.S. election project at the University of Florida.

Voters cast more than 21% of the total in 2016, with more than 136.6 million Americans voting. In 2016, there were 5.9 million early votes before October 23, 16 days before election day.

The increase this time around is driven by many voters’ desire to avoid the risks of coronavirus associated with potentially long queues on Election Day on November 3rd. But it also seemed to reflect enthusiasm among Democrats in particular.

Democratic votes in lead

In states that publicly report party registration of voters, nearly 54% of ballots came from registered Democrats compared to 25% from Republicans. Opinion polls show that most Trump supporters plan to vote in person on election day after months of unsubstantiated claims by Trump that absenteeism is unreliable.

Biden had no public events on Monday instead of recording a “60 Minutes” interview that CBS broadcasts on Sunday. The former vice president again tested negative for coronavirus, his campaign said Monday.

He and Trump have a debate scheduled for Thursday following Trump’s decision to back out of last week’s scheduled debate.

The Trump campaign urged debate organizers to reconsider the issues discussed, saying they deviated too far from foreign policy. The city’s campaign said both sides had agreed months ago to let organizers choose the topics.

“The Trump campaign is lying about it now because Donald Trump is afraid of getting more questions about his catastrophic COVID reaction,” spokesman TJ Ducklo said.

Biden’s running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, urged Florida supporters to vote early.

“This man had the ability to deal with (the virus) but denied the fact, denied science and lies to the American people,” Harris said of Trump in remarks to supporters at a drive-in meeting in Orlando.

Posts on social media showed lines of voters in some of the 52 of Florida’s 67 counties that began voting personally early Monday, suggesting similarly high levels of enthusiasm as seen in other early voting states this year.

Hundreds of people, most wearing face masks, stood in pouring rain in the morning outside the public library in Coral Gables, a majority-Spanish city near Miami.

Louis Perez, 57, an investigator of insurance fraud, said he voted for Biden because of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“He lied about it right from the start,” Perez, who is not affiliated with a party, said of Trump.

Registered Republican Antonio Sanchez, an architect who arrived in the United States from communist Cuba, said he supported Trump because he “stands for freedom” and against socialism.

“My two daughters are doctors. I do not think it could have happened anywhere other than America,” Sanchez, 59, said.

Florida is widely seen as a must-win for Trump, whose path to victory will be razor-sharp if he loses the southern state. The state’s award of 29 ballots is tied with New York for the third largest, behind California and Texas alone, over the 270 election ballots that determine the president’s winner under the U.S. system.

Biden 49%, Trump 47% in Florida

And 7.-14. October Reuters / Ipsos survey of the state showed Biden with 49% support and Trump with 47% within the survey’s credibility range of 4 percentage points.

Trump fought Monday in Arizona, another battlefield state. He has mocked Biden for holding fewer campaign events and for limiting the number of participants, while Biden and public health experts have attacked Trump for hosting crowded gatherings with few masks and little social distance amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans .

In his call earlier on Monday, Trump told his campaign staff that Americans were tired of pandemic restrictions, even though the number of cases is rising in many states, calling Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious expert, a “disaster.”

“People say, ‘No matter what. Let’s just be at peace.’ “They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” said Trump, who has been playing down the pandemic for several months.

(REUTERS)