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TAMPA, Florida — Pressing against stiff headwinds from the pandemic, President Donald Trump steered toward what he hoped was safer political ground with the U.S. economy as Democratic rival Joe Biden kept up his assault on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
*Counties are colored red or blue when the % expected vote reporting reaches a set threshold. This threshold varies by state and is based on patterns of past vote reporting and expectations about how the vote will report this year.

All eyes are on Florida, a swing state known for razor-thin election tallies.

If President Donald Trump doesn’t win Florida, he’s going to have a rough time capturing enough states to stay in office. If Democrat Joe Biden doesn’t win the state, he still has other pathways to victory.

Campaigning hours apart in Florida on Thursday, both candidates urged supporters to get to polling places in person, even as a tropical storm interrupted early voting in the Southeast.

While the Election Day vote traditionally favors Republicans and early votes tend toward Democrats, the pandemic, which has killed more than 227,000 people in the United States, has injected new uncertainty.

“You hold the power. If Florida goes blue, it’s over,” Biden told supporters Thursday.

Trump on Thursday was celebrating a new federal estimate that the economy grew at a stunning 33.1% annual rate in the July-September quarter — by far the largest quarterly gain on record — making up ground from its epic plunge in the spring, when the eruption of the coronavirus closed businesses and threw tens of millions out of work.

“So glad this great GDP number came out before November 3rd,” Trump tweeted, predicting a dire reversal if Biden is elected.

But economists warned that the economy is already weakening again and facing renewed threats as confirmed viral cases surge, hiring has slowed and federal stimulus help has mostly run out.

Biden said, “The recovery is slowing if not stalling, and the recovery that is happening is helping those at the top but leaving tens of millions of working families and small businesses behind.”

The Democrat is framing his closing arguments to voters on what he describes as responsible management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump, instead, is arguing that Biden would undo the economic gains of his administration with stricter, virus-targeting public health controls – though those are largely what scientists are calling for.

“The people are tired. They can’t do it anymore,” Trump said of lockdowns.

Trump and Biden both visited the western end of the Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor, an area known for rapid residential growth, sprawling suburbs and its status as an ever-changing, hard-fought battleground during presidential elections.

The president had been scheduled to hit another sunbelt battleground state, North Carolina, on Thursday evening but canceled his event in Fayetteville as Tropical Storm Zeta brought wind gusts reaching 50 mph to the area.

Biden was forced to wrap his speech up early at a drive-in rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds In Tampa after a brief shower turned into a torrential downpour.

Trump is betting on the GOP’s vast field and data operations, and efforts known as “poll flushing” – monitoring precinct lists for who has and has not yet voted – to provide a late boost on Election Day. The Republican National Committee, which has more than 3,000 field staff and claims more than 2.5 million volunteers, will use that information to reach out to Trump supporters to ensure they get to the polls.

Nowhere may those efforts be more important than in Florida. Without the battleground state’s 29 electoral votes, Trump’s path to victory is exceptionally difficult.

On Thursday, Trump was introduced in Tampa by first lady Melania Trump, who praised her husband’s presidency, saying “under Donald’s leadership, we have blocked out the noise and focused on you, the American people.”

Trump is banking on local news coverage of his visit to overcome a substantial advertising deficit stemming from a late cash crunch. Biden and his allies are outspending Trump and his backers by more than 3-to-1 in Florida – about $23 million to about $7 million – in the final push to Election Day, according to data from ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

Biden, meanwhile, is pouring tens of millions of dollars into a torrent of online advertising that will deliver his closing message of the presidential campaign, highlighting his promise to govern for all Americans while blasting Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I will work as hard for those who don’t support me as those who do,” Biden says in one of the digital ads, which took over the masthead of on Thursday. “That’s the job of a president – the duty to care for everyone.”

How much exactly Biden will spend is unclear. His campaign says it is putting a “mid-eight figure” dollar amount behind over 100 different ads, which means they could be spending as little as $25 million – but potentially much more.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, launched its closing message to voters Thursday, not mentioning Trump, in an apparent aim to help GOP candidates up and down the ballot with a focus on traditional Republican messages around lowering taxes and health care.

Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Source: ABC7 Chicago

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