Trump supporters overwhelm Biden in battleground state
It was his first campaign visit to the must-win state he's been accused of abandoning but Joe Biden's stop in Florida looked more like a Trump rally.
Trump supporters outnumbered Biden's by 10 to one in Tampa, a stark illustration of the "enthusiasm gap" that's haunting the Democrat candidate even while he leads in polling.
Days after billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced he's spending US $100 million to help the Democrats take back Florida, and as Mr Biden was accused of leaving his run for the Sunshine State too late, he enjoyed lacklustre visible support at two events.
Trump boosters outnumbered those for the former Vice President by at least ten to one at his first stop in a community college outside Tampa.
At a later event in Kissimmee, a sprawling town of strip malls and motels just south of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Mr Biden joined a virtual event to begin Hispanic Heritage Month.
Local Democratic organiser Keith Hanson managed to assemble a couple of dozen Biden voters to counter a large crowd of around 100 Trump supporters who were there from early afternoon.
"When we saw they were here to protest I said we need to be here to support," said Mr Hanson, a retired teacher from New York.
"So I made a few phone calls put it out online and this is what we got in a few hours."
The smaller gatherings accord with the Biden campaign's strategy to adhere strictly to social distancing and Democrats have been highly critical of the Trump 2020 approach of energising big crowds.
But Mr Hanson said while the approach was the "right thing to do" it was making his job of enrolling new voters.
"It's hard to get people enthusiastic when you're calling them, emailing them, it's not the same as being able to talk to them face-to-face," he said.
Mr Biden currently leads Mr Trump in national polling and in Florida polls by between 1.4 to 5 points, leading many pundits to describe the state as a toss-up.
It was one of six that won Mr Trump the White House in 2016, despite pollsters consistently predicting they would go to Hillary Clinton, and it has been the target of fulsome Republican campaigning for more than a year.
Mr Trump's support from Latino voters, running even with Mr Biden, is striking in that while his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton had a double digit advantage on election day with this demographic, Mr Trump still took the state by 116,000 votes to win its 29 electoral college votes.
Mr Biden's teleconferenced Florida tour didn't start well. In his opening statements, he referred to his potential presidency as a "Harris-Biden administration", putting his running mate's name first in a slip which confirmed the views of many gathered outside who echo Mr Trump's criticism of the Democrat as a "puppet of the Socialist Left" who would have no real control of the party.
"He's not in charge of anything," said Pam Davis from Tampa Bay, who believes Mr Biden's encouragement of mail-in voting will lead to electoral fraud.
Occupational therapist Ryan Naylor said: "I feel sorry for him, to tell the truth because he doesn't know what's going on".
He was standing beside a fellow Trump supporter with a sign saying "Welcome Joe to Kansas", one of several poking fun at the gaff-prone candidate misnaming the city he's visiting on a semi-regular basis.
Both Mr Naylor said and Ms Davis said they put no stock in polling that called Florida a close race.
"Who are these pollsters talking to?" Mr Naylor asked.
He called out to the crowd around him: "I've never had a single call about a poll, never seen anything online about a poll - have you?", to which about five people answered that they had never answered a question on who they supported.
"It's all fake," said Mr Taylor.
But Biden supporter Patricia Sullivan, one of about ten Democrat voters visible in the loud crowd of about 100 Trump voters, said she was there to support Mr Biden because "we need a return to decency".
"All of this, it's not right," she said, pointing to the crowd and saying Mr Trump promoted discord.
"Everyone's so angry all the time, it's got to end."
Originally published as Trump supporters overwhelm Biden in battleground state