Wednesday 22 November 2017

Rivals know Florida holds White House key as fight for votes goes into overdrive

Supporters pray before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Pensacola, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Supporters pray before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Pensacola, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Melania Trump speaks at the Main Line Sports Center in Berwyn. Photo: AP
Douglas Robinson, 20, wears a patriotic suit with Donald Trump pins while waiting in line outside before Melania Trump, wife to the Republican Presidential nominee, holds an event at Main Line Sports in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Photo: Reuters
A Donald Trump supporter holds a modified campaign bumper sticker in favor of Melania Trump, wife to the Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who spoke during an event at Main Line Sports in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media after Melania Trump, wife to the Republican Presidential nominee, delivered a speech at Main Line Sports in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Photo: Reuters
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign event at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo: Reuters
Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets audience members at a campaign rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs up to audience members at a campaign rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters
President Barack Obama speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Florida International University Arena on Thursday. Photo: AP

Ruth Sherlock in Miami

President Barack Obama spoke with the urgency of a leader who knows that America's future rests in the hands of his audience.

"You have a chance to shape history, and that doesn't come often," Mr Obama told a cheering crowd at a Miami university.

"There is incredible power in your hands."

After almost 18 months of tireless campaigning, millions of dollars spent and countless sleepless nights, the election between Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, is fated to be decided by a few thousand votes.

With only four days to go until election day, the ultimate battleground state of Florida, with its prized 29 electoral votes, is expected to once again come down to the wire.

The latest polls show Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump in a statistical tie. The candidates have gone into overdrive, criss-crossing the state with three or four appearances a day, visiting each other's strongholds again and again in a bid to grab as many votes from each other as they can.

"This is a full press for every single person," said Juan Cuba, Democratic party executive director for Miami-Dade county, Mrs Clinton's firewall in Florida.

"This is about energising people to turn out. We can't afford to leave a single vote on the table."

In order to win Florida, Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton must appeal to one of the most divided and ethnically diverse electorates in the nation.

Mr Cuba remembers all too well the lesson of 2000, where the result of the election between George W Bush and Al Gore was delayed by a weeks-long bitter recount in the state.

Even Mr Obama's victory in 2012, considered a relatively comfortable win, came down to less than 1pc of the popular vote.

Mr Trump's support heartland is in the northern panhandle of the state, particularly in the suburban areas home to white working-class and middle-income voters.

Mrs Clinton's stronghold is in the urban centres of the south, including in Hispanic majority districts where Spanish is the primary language.

Mrs Clinton also needs to capture the hearts of millennial voters, swathes of whom have not registered a party affiliation and, her campaign fears, may not turn out for her.

And she will have to secure the support of African Americans, who, after voting in overwhelming numbers for Mr Obama, are showing signs of staying at home in this election.

Carey Guangzhou, an 18-year-old black biology student, was initially uninspired by this election.

"The way I see it you can say Donald did this and Hillary did this," she said, referring to the negative campaigning.

"But the question is, what are you going to do for our country?"

Ms Guangzhou eventually sided with Mrs Clinton for her softer immigration stance.

"I like that she is not trying to build a wall," she said. "How can you kick out the people that helped build this America?"

Early voting data suggests Mr Trump's harsh rhetoric against undocumented migrants may have hurt him. Close to a third of Florida's more than 13 million voters have already cast their ballots and there has been a high turnout in Latino counties, suggesting a surge of support for Mrs Clinton.

But the Republican candidate will be helped by older generations of Cubans who have traditionally voted conservative, fearing Democratic policies could drag America towards the communist system they fled.

Michael Barnett (39) heads the Republican Party of Florida's minority engagement committee. He is also a member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, an organisation of some 60 advisers from minority backgrounds.

"The strategy has to be to convince some, to peel away support," he said.

"In such a tight race as Florida, which is split down the middle, we only have to give our nominee a few extra votes to push him over the edge."

At a rally in Fort Lauderdale last month, Erwin Nieto, a 42-year-old from Panama who carries pro-Trump signs along rush-hour roads, said he had voted for Mr Obama in 2012.

"But there are more homeless people in this country than before," he said.

"He turned this country into a dumpster." (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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