President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday will host dueling rallies in Florida as polls indicate an extremely close race for the state’s 29 electoral votes.
In an effort to turn out remaining backers and flip undecided voters, both candidates will hold rallies in Tampa, whose metro area contains about 3 million of Florida’s 21 million people.
Trump will entertain and energize thousands of supporters at a 1:30 pm rally at Raymond James Stadium, which has a 65,000-person capacity.
Biden, meanwhile, will host an evening “drive-in” rally at 6:30 pm in Tampa after hosting a similar event at 1:30 pm in populous Democratic stronghold Broward County in southeast Florida, where Hillary Clinton took two-thirds of votes in 2016.
The RealClearPolitics polling average gives Biden a .5 percentage point lead in Florida, but most polls are within the margin of error and Trump backers believe he has a large number of “silent” supporters who won’t publicly admit they support him, but will vote.
Under most predictive models, Florida’s electoral votes — tied for third-most in the nation with New York — are essential to Trump’s hope of re-election. A defeat there makes his path to victory much tougher, especially because Florida counts absentee ballots and early votes before Nov. 3, meaning results will be available on election night. Delays in other states may spark legal battles.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed two other swing states, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 3, days after Election Day, meaning the outcomes there may not be known immediately.
Biden’s drive-in rallies generally attract dozens of cars of supporters wary of catching COVID-19. Attendees remain inside their vehicles and honk. The events give TV networks some footage of Biden, who has campaigned little due to the pandemic.
Trump’s events, by contrast, serve as base-energizing shows of strength where the president urges thousands of supporters to help him reject the conventional wisdom that he’s trailing to Biden. He’s hosting multiple rallies per day in swing states the final campaign stretch, and will travel to North Carolina for a 6:30 pm rally Thursday night.
On Friday, Trump campaigned in The Villages, a large retirement community north of Tampa, and in Pensacola on Florida’s western panhandle. Trump held his comeback rally after recovering from COVID-19 on Oct. 12 in Sanford, near Orlando. He returned to nearby Ocala on Oct. 16.
Some polls show Trump gaining support among Florida’s Latinos, but losing support from 2016 among retirees.
Trump beat Clinton in Florida by more than 100,000 votes, but the state’s results were subject to a protracted struggle in 2000. A Supreme Court ruling effectively handed victory to Republican George W. Bush with an edge of 537 votes.
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