President Donald Trump and his Democratic White House challenger Joe Biden have held dueling rallies in the critical election state of Florida.
Joe Biden told supporters: “You hold the power. If Florida goes blue [Democratic], it’s over.”
Celebrating soaring economic figures, President Trump said of his rival: “He’s going to lock you down.”
With just five days to go until Election Day, Joe Biden has a solid lead nationally in opinion polls.
However, his advantage looks less assured in the battleground states, such as Florida, that will decide who ultimately wins the White House.
More than 81 million people have already voted, 52 million of them by mail, setting the US on course for its highest electoral turnout rate in more than a century.
On October 29, at a rally in Tampa, President Trump reveled in a new federal projection that the US economy had expanded at an unprecedented 33.1% annual rate in the most recent quarter, following a record 31% contraction in the previous three months during the coronavirus crash.
Florida is a must-win for President Trump and a key opinion poll average shows him just 1.4 points behind Joe Biden, which amounts to a statistical dead heat.
At a 100-minute outdoor rally, President Trump told thousands of people, many of them crowded together without masks: “Joe Biden’s plan is to deliver punishing [coronavirus] lockdowns. He’s going to lock you down.”
“Look, we were compared to Europe,” noted the president.
“‘Germany is doing so well, France is doing so well, everyone’s doing so well.’ No, they’re not doing well.”
While emphasizing Europeans were allies, he continued: “They’re spiking up big, they’re shutting down, they’re locking down.
“I disagree with that because we’re never going to lock down again. We locked down, we understood the disease and now we’re open for business.”
The president was introduced by First Lady Melania Trump, making a rare appearance on the campaign trail. Her biggest applause line came when she said: “We are a country of hope, not a country of fear or weakness, and we have a leader who shows us that every single day.”
Donald Trump had been due to hit another key state, North Carolina, on October 29, but canceled that event in Fayetteville because of foul weather from Tropical Storm Zeta in the area.
The storm reportedly disrupted early voting in another election battleground, Georgia, sparking power cuts in some precincts and toppling trees that blocked off mobile polling sites.
President Trump – who began this month in hospital with coronavirus – is visiting 10 states in the last week of the campaign and will host 11 rallies in the final two days, a campaign official said.
He is hoping that media coverage of his rallies will compensate for his chronic deficit in ad spending as a result of his now-limited campaign coffers.
In Florida alone, according to data from ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG, Joe Biden and his allies are outspending Donald Trump by more than three to one.
In a potential boost for President Trump, on October 29 he won a rare thumbs-up from an African American celebrity, rapper Lil Wayne, who appeared to endorse him.
Lil Wayne tweeted: “Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”