JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Donald Trump has won Florida’s 29 electoral votes, defeating Democrat Joe Biden in a prized battleground state crucial to the Republican’s bid for another four years in the White House.
The Associated Press and TV networks waited hours and until 99% of the Florida vote was counted to declare Trump the winner despite the president having a 3-point and nearly a 400,000-vote lead out of more than 11 million votes cast.
The delay was long enough that Twitter exploded with questions, including from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, about the delay. It prompted AP to send out an explanation about calling a race in a “perennial battleground state. Florida has a history of close elections, including the state’s 2018 governor’s race, which went to a recount.”
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Trump withstood an aggressive challenge by the former vice president, who questioned the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his rush to appoint a new justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and how he has addressed social unrest after high-profile police killings of Black people.
Democrats had hoped to boost turnout among their ranks with a mail-in voting push, but it was not enough. In the end, Trump prevailed with the help of a loyal base, particularly in the state’s rural reaches.
With so many states at play in the final weeks of the campaign, it became increasingly clear that Trump could not afford to lose Florida -- a state he narrowly won in 2016 when he outpolled Democrat Hillary Clinton by just over 112,000 votes.
Both campaigns made Florida a priority in the waning weeks of an election year thrown off-kilter by the pandemic.
Trump made frequent visits across the state. After being infected by the coronavirus, the president reemerged on the campaign trail in Florida, holding rallies that attracted unmasked throngs crowding shoulder-to-shoulder and willing to risk infection.
Both camps vied for support among seniors and Hispanics in a state with significant segments of both.
Trump tried to tie Biden to the Democratic far left, hoping that branding him as a socialist -- even though Biden lies to the center of his party politically -- would gain traction among voters of Cuban, Venezuelan and Central American descent whose families fled the politics of their homelands.
It remains to be seen how the social unrest after high-profile police killings of Black people might have influenced the race. Analysts say a lack of enthusiasm among Florida’s sizeable bloc of Black voters contributed to Clinton’s loss.
Biden did win Duval County this year -- the first time a Democrat had won the county since Jimmy Carter swept the south in 1976.