JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 5 million voters have already cast ballots in the battleground state of Florida as candidates for governor and U.S. Senate made their last pitches Monday, the day before the rest of the state chooses candidates.
In the governor's race, Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum spent the day in north Florida communities that tend to vote Republican -- a departure from past elections when the Democratic nominees have focused on the party's strongholds in South Florida.
"We've been to red areas, we've been to blue areas, we've been to purple areas," Gillum told a packed church in Marianna. "Our message hasn't changed in any of those places."
His opponent, former Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, campaigned in Orlando with Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, urging a crowd of about 100 to get neighbors, co-workers and relatives to vote Tuesday.
"Let them know the future of Florida is at stake. We will be different if Andrew Gillum is elected and we will be different for the worse," DeSantis said. "Why would we want to shoot ourselves in the foot? It will be a self-inflicted wound."
His comment came three days after Gillum left the campaign trail to return to Tallahassee, where a gunman fatally shot two people, shot and wounded four others and pistol-whipped a seventh victim before killing himself.
As of Monday morning, Democrats had a slight advantage in votes cast by mail or at early-voting sites before Election Day.
Democrats have cast 2.06 million ballots. Republicans have cast 2.04 million. More than 948,000 voters with no party affiliation have also voted.
This year's totals far exceed those of 2014 midterms, but are still short of the 6.6 million who voted ahead of the presidential election in 2016.
Florida's more than 13 million registered voters are also deciding a pivotal U.S. Senate contest between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. It's Nelson's toughest challenge since being elected in 2000: Scott has pumped more than $60 million of his own money into his campaign.
Nelson repeated his campaign tradition of sign waving in Orlando, Melbourne and other central Florida locations on the day before the election, while Scott was using his private plane to make several stops around the state.
"We win with votes. Votes, votes, votes," Scott said in Hialeah in a speech that lasted less than five minutes. "This is about our kids and our grandkids. What kind of future are we going to leave for them."