Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Trump hold dueling rallies Thursday in Tampa, Florida, the western anchor of the critical I-4 swing region in the extremely crucial general election battleground state.
The president goes first, holding an early afternoon rally outside of Raymond James Stadium, which his home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The former vice president goes second, headlining a socially distanced drive-in car rally in the early evening. Biden arrives in Tampa after holding a campaign event earlier in the day in Democratic rich Broward County in southeast Florida.
As the economy remains a top issue on the minds of voters, the Commerce Department released GDP data on Thursday showing the U.S. economy grew at a record-shattering pace in the third quarter as businesses reopened from the coronavirus shutdown, though the nation remains in a deep hole from the COVID-induced recession.
While in Florida, the president gets an extra bonus – Raymond James Stadium is a site for in-person early voting, and the Trump campaign is banking on some supporters casting a ballot either before or after the rally. By law, campaigning isn’t allowed within 150 feet of a polling location, but the rally is being held in the stadium’s north parking lot, which is technically just outside the no-electioneering zone.
With 29 electoral votes up for grabs, Florida’s the largest of the traditional battleground states.
Twenty years ago, it was the state that decided the presidential election between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. President Bush won the state by five points in his 2004 reelection.
President Barack Obama carried the state by razor-thin margins in both 2008 and 2012. Then, four years ago, Trump narrowly edged out 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by just over one point.
An average of the most recent polling in the state shows an extremely close contest between Biden and the president. Both candidates, their running mates, and high profile surrogates, have flooded Florida during the general election. And both campaigns and allied outside groups have poured resources and money into state.
Florida’s considered by many pundits and strategists to be a must win for Trump. And Biden, during a recent trip to the state, highlighted to supporters that “Here in Florida you can determine the outcome of this election. We win Florida and it’s all over.”
The visits by the two major party standard bearers come as nearly 7 million Floridians have already voted. Roughly 2.8 million Democrats, 2.6 million Republicans, and 1.4 million independents have cast ballots.