President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden gathered supporters Thursday in the close-knit state of Florida, highlighting their contrasting approach to the resurgent coronavirus pandemic as the clock ticks down for election day.
Opinion polls show that Biden has a significant advantage nationally, but with a tighter lead in the battlefield, playing a crucial role in the final result.
A Reuters / Ipsos poll released Wednesday showed that Trump had essentially gone into a draw with Biden in Florida, with 49% saying they would vote for Biden and 47% for the president.
With its 29 electoral votes, the state is a big prize in Tuesday’s election. Trump’s victory in Florida in 2016 was crucial to his surprising election victory.
Thousands of people, many of them without masks, gathered at an outdoor event in Tampa on Thursday to hear Trump mock his opponent, the former vice president.
“Could you imagine losing to this guy? Could you imagine that? ”
Said Trump, adding that he was sure to win another term.
Video feed of a jam-packed Trump campaign rally in Tampa right now. Barely a mask in sight. This county in Florida is seeing increasing cases of coronavirus, admissions, ICU admissions, and test positivity rates. pic.twitter.com/VV0nDDbYKd
– William Brangham (@WmBrangham) October 29, 2020
Hours later, Biden arrived in the same city to hold a “drive-in” meeting where participants stayed in or near their cars to avoid possible spread of the virus, his second such event of the day in Florida. Supporters of the event wore masks as required by the City campaign, although they did not always maintain social distance.
Biden criticized Trump for holding what he called a “super-spreader event” and attacked the president’s repeated claim that the country had gone through the worst days of the pandemic despite rising cases nationwide.
“Donald Trump has waved the white flag, left our families and surrendered to this virus,” Biden said. “But the American people never give up; we never give in. ”
The shadow of the pandemic
The pandemic, which has improved lives across the United States, killed more than 227,000 people and caused millions of job losses, roars back.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the threat from the pandemic, saying this week that his opponents and the news media would stop paying attention to it right after the election, even as European leaders fight to contain another wave and public health experts predict a gloomy winter in the United States.
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Officials in Gastonia, North Carolina, warned people attending a Oct. 21 Trump meeting there that two people attending tested positive for COVID-19.
Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force warns of a persistent and widespread spread of COVID-19 in the western half of the United States, including in a number of states that will play an important role in the election.
The Republican president paid tribute to figures released on Thursday that showed the U.S. economy grew at an unsurpassed annual rate of 33% in the third quarter due to a giant federal pandemic aid program.
“So glad this big GDP number came out before November 3,” Trump wrote in a tweet. However, it is doubtful whether economic data so close to election day can affect the outcome. Biden may point out that U.S. production will remain below its level in the fourth quarter of 2019 before the pandemic hit.
After his own battle with COVID-19, the president has had a hectic campaign plan that holds as many as three gatherings a day in different states, while Biden has taken a more focused tackle and spent two days this week close to his home base of Delaware.
A planned Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Thursday night was postponed due to wind advice coming from Hurricane Zeta, Trump’s campaign said. The president plans to return to the Midwest Friday and campaign in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In total, he plans to visit 10 states in the final days of the campaign and will host 11 gatherings in the last 48 hours, a campaign official said.
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The city’s own Tampa speech was interrupted by a sudden downpour. He is expected to travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa on Friday.
River with early voting
More than 80 million Americans have already voted in the presidential election, according to a poll Thursday from the U.S. election project at the University of Florida, which set the stage for the highest turnout in over a century.
This increase includes more than 51 million votes cast by mail, a long-standing practice of U.S. elections fluctuating in popularity due to the pandemic. Government officials and experts have warned that voting can take days or even weeks, as some states have rules banning the counting of early votes before election day.
Florida is home to large Latino populations, with Cuban Americans in southern Florida traditionally tending to favor Republicans, while newer communities of Puerto Ricans in central Florida lean toward Democrats.
Biden’s campaign on Thursday sought to allay concerns among Democrats that Biden did not reach Latino voters nationally as well as former President Barack Obama used to do.
“We are 100% on track to match or exceed Obama’s Latino turnout in 2012,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of election and research firm Latino Decisions, in a media conference call hosted by the Biden campaign.