Donald Trump and Joe Biden tussled in Tampa today as Florida became a must-win State for the President.
The candidates both arrived in ‘The Big Guava’ in a last-ditch to attempt to win votes ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Trump appeared at the local American football team, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium alongside the First Lady who has rarely been seen on the campaign trail.
Before introducing her husband Melania, who like the President tested positive for Covid, told hundreds of his maskless supporters that at “a time when hate, negativity and fear are the messages the media streams into our homes,” he is focused on “the health and safety of the American people.”
Trump then took the podium where he once again downplayed the coronavirus amid rising numbers while also boasting about the economy.
He told the crowd: “We’re never going to lockdown again. We’re open for business,” before then falsely claiming Biden wants to shut America down.
He then attacked his rival accusing him of being in Russia and China’s pocket over unfounded claims Biden’s son Hunter took money from the two countries.
“I think Russia is looking at us and saying, ‘These people are stone-cold crazy,” Trump said.
At one point Trump said if Biden won Christmas would be cancelled. Biden would not take over as President until January 20 if elected.
The President lauded himself over figures out yesterday that showed US GDP has spiked 33.1 per cent in the third quarter, the fastest pace recorded.
It came after the economy dropped around 31 per cent due to Covid-19 and as Wall Street continued to tumble.
But Trump insisted: “Biden is holding back the stock market.”
The US leader arrived at the Raymond James Stadium to Time to Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, just hours ahead of Biden’s appearance at the nearby State Fairgrounds.
Earlier in the day, the Democrat appeared in Broward County, Florida.
Recent days and several appearances have seen him receive a much needed, albeit slight edge over his rival in the Florida polls.
If the President were to lose the Sunshine State, his hopes of reelection would be all but gone.
Florida carries 29 electoral college votes of the 270 needed by a candidate to win but other States are currently showing bigger support for Biden despite Trump closing in North Carolina, Nevada and Iowa.
Each one gets a certain number of electoral college votes partly based on its population, and there are a total of 538 up for grabs.
Already more than 6.5 million in Florida - some 75 million nationally - have cast their vote ahead on next Tuesday’s ballot, the result of which will be announced around midnight UK time.
However many states are embroiled in legal action over just how long after election day votes can be counted if they are postmarked on or before November 3.
A blow out win for Biden in Florida and Trump’s race will be over. The Democrat, however, can afford to lose Florida and still win the race.
“It so important we get President Trump back in the White House,” supporter Tammy Douglas, 43, told the Mirror.
“If Biden get in America is going to the dogs.
“We don’t want his socialist policies here. He would be a disaster.”
There is good reason both candidates arrived in Tampa’s why Hillsborough county so close to polling day.
Ever since 1960, it has correctly called the last 21 elections bar two - one being 2016.
No other district in history has predicted with such accuracy who will win the race despite many close-run elections starting with their choice to elect John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon in a vote separated by just 112,827 national ballots.
Tampa is the start of the so-called I-4 corridor freeway which is known as Florida’s “golden girdle”.
“The I-4 is so important to both candidates,” says former career diplomat Elizabeth Corwin.
“Win that and more than likely you’ll win Florida.
“In many ways, it America’s corridor of power. Along its route, you’ll find its path paved with Presidents and the ruins of their contenders.”
The 58-year-old, who has campaigned fiercely for Biden, added: “With the race so tight in Florida whoever wins the I-4 will win be saying hello to four years in the White House.”
The reason the corridor is so important is for shown by how statewide races have been won for decades.
Democrats clean up in the enormous populated areas in south Florida, while Republicans rack up votes in the conservative north and southwest.
The two sides battle it out in the cities and towns along I-4.
Now with just four days (Four days from Friday) left on the campaign, early voting among the 934,346 people eligible to vote in Hillsborough has been fierce.
Mirroring the huge numbers who have already cast their ballot records numbers have been seen officials due to Covid.
Stood with voters at the Jan Kaminis Platt Library polling station in Tampa, a middle-aged woman stops to wind down her car window.
“How long have you been waiting in line for?” she asks.
From several socially distanced feet away, Leslie Sumners (corr)(used her mother’s maiden name due to job) shouts: “Four God damn years.”
For anyone who failed to hear the 47-year-old prison officer, it was clear by her Biden/Harris T-shirt just what she meant and who she was casting her ballot for.
Although Sumners response - one she said she heard someone else say but with an expletive - Tensions have run high over threats to those casting ballots many claiming to have felt intimidation from the President supporters.
Two armed Trump supporters appearance at a St Petersburg polling station set off concerns about intimidation.
The pair of off-duty security guards had not been hired to be there but were still in uniform when they joined fellow supporters of the President holding campaign signs.
A Trump supporter using a bull horn to shout at voters waiting in line last week in Pembroke Pines and truck blared what people complained was “pro-Trump” music in Orange County were other instances of the dozens of complaints officials have received.
In Miami, a police officer is facing disciplinary action after he was photographed wearing a mask promoting Trump inside an early voting site while wearing his uniform.
Cop Daniel Ubeda was in full uniform with badge and gun wearing his Trump faceguard inside a polling location.
The State Attorney is looking if any criminal charges should be brought.
Democrats have also been accused of intimidation after one in Lake County aggressively confronted a voter and a member of the elections staff.