With less than a week to go before Election Day, President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden both held rallies on the same day in Tampa.
Both campaigns were attempting to sway voters still holding on to mail-in ballots, planning to vote early or on Election Day.
Trump took the stage around 1:45 p.m. in the north parking lot of Raymond James Stadium. Highlights from his rally are posted below.
Biden hosted a 6 p.m. drive-in rally. Its location was being disclosed only to supporters and members of the media who were in attendance. The Biden campaign stated it's a formula designed to limit the number of people at the rally to ensure proper social distancing.
What You Need To Know
- President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden campaign in Tampa on Thursday
- LIVE UPDATES: Follow Spectrum Bay News 9 reporters covering both events
- The dueling events are part of both presidential candidates' last-week push before Election Day
- Winning Florida remains critical for president's reelection chances
Joe Biden's Rained-Out Drive-In Rally
Most of the former vice president's supporters were either in or on their cars when the rain came down, so the only people who may have gotten really soaked were the candidate himself and a few dozen people up on stage with him.
The deluge dropped about 15 minutes into Biden's speech, and he did not return to the stage when the rain stopped.
According to Spectrum News reporter Angie Angers, the parking lot at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa cleared out pretty quickly. Event organizers had capped the number of vehicles at just under 400, hoping to maximize social distancing for people choosing to stand outside.
During his short time at the microphone, Biden drew a sharp distinction between how his campaign operates amid the pandemic and what took place hours early outside Raymond James Stadium.
"Donald Trump just had a super spreader event here today. He's spreading more than just coronavirus. Ge's spreading division and discord. We need a president who's going to bring us together not pull us apart," Biden told his supporters. "I'll put a plan in place to deal with this pandemic responsibly, bringing the country together on testing, tracing, masking."
Biden also responded to Trump's claims that he would bring back strict coronavirus restrictions and send the economy into a depression.
"I'm not going to shut down the economy. I'm not gonna shut down the country. I'm gonna shut down the virus," he said.
His main message to all those listening in person and virtually? Vote.
"I believe when you use your power, the power of the vote, we literally are going to change the course of this country for generations to come."
President Trump's Tampa Rally
First lady Melania Trump introduced the president at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. She called attention to her husband's historic peace deals in the Middle East and touted his decision to move America's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Then, Trump took the stage and swiftly predicted he would win Florida, paving the way for another four years in the White House.
The president praised Governor Ron DeSantis, telling the crowd, “He’s a great governor. You have a great governor. He’s a great guy.”
He focused in on the day's economic news – a 33.1% growth in GDP – then transitioned into a pledge never again to shut down the country because of COVID.
“We’re never gonna lock down again," he said.
President Trump repeated his accusation that Joe Biden is "paid off" by China, and brought up the former VP's son, Hunter. The crowd chanted, "Where's Hunter?" and "Lock him up!"
He later emphasized his support among law enforcement.
“You have great sheriffs. We got endorsed by the sheriff’s – all law enforcement all over Florida,” Trump told the crowd outside Raymond James Stadium.
He then turned that on his opponent.
“Joe Biden couldn’t name one law enforcement agency who endorses him, then Chris Wallace saved him,” the president said, referencing the first debate.
Trump repeated his promise of a vaccine being released in the next few weeks and discussed the first family’s personal experience with COVID-19.
He then made a string of promises aimed directly at his Conservative base.
“We will fight for American workers. We will defend our second amendment ... support our police, protect our borders, defend school choice, ensure more products are stamped with…made in the USA.”
After the rally, Trump postponed his North Carolina rally to Monday due to inclement weather.
The campaign stops are part of both candidates's last-week push for voters in all-important Florida before the general election November 3.
The tightening presidential race suggests that the nation's largest swing state likely will again be decided by a percentage point or two.
In recent days, former President Barack Obama did the same Tuesday in Democrat-rich Orlando for his former vice president, while Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump stumped for her father in Republican-dominated Sarasota.
Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is a must-win state for Trump to have a realistic chance of being reelected. He carried the state by 113,000 votes over Hillary Clinton in 2016, a margin of 1.2 percentage points.
A recent FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Biden with a slight lead over Trump.
Early voting statistics show the race is tightening, as expected. Through Monday, Florida Democrats had cast almost 300,000 more ballots than Republicans, but that advantage, built through mail-in voting, is narrowing as more Republicans vote in person. Mail-in voting began a month ago, and walk-in early voting started last week.
Overall, over 2.8 million Democrats have voted compared with nearly 2.6 million Republicans. The gap peaked October 21, when the Democrats were almost 490,000 ballots ahead, but it has slowly declined each day since then. Two-thirds of Democratic votes have been cast by mail, compared with about half of Republican ballots.
In addition, nearly 1.4 million ballots have been cast by those with no party affiliation.
Nearly 7 million ballots have been cast in Florida as of Oct. 29, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.