Washington – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made their final pitches to voters in the south-eastern US battleground state of Florida on Saturday, trying to drum up support among a divided electorate before the presidential election on November 8.
Trump riled up his Republican supporters at a rally in Tampa, while Clinton made a stop in Pembroke Pines, a suburb of Miami.
Florida, the third-largest US state by population, is a key state that will deliver 29 electoral college votes to the winner on Tuesday. In the US general election, a candidate needs to win at least 270 electoral college votes to become president.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up six-month-old Catalina Larkin on stage during a speech to supporters in Tampa, Florida, on November 5, 2016. (Credit Image: © Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Wire)
The race in the so-called Sunshine State is currently neck-and-neck, with Clinton posting a lead of 1.2 points over Trump, according to an average of polls by non-partisan website Real Clear Politics.
Speaking to supporters during a steady downpour of rain in Pembroke Pines, Clinton said she was committed to making America a safer place.
The Democratic candidate reminded the crowd that she had visited 112 countries as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 and had stood up for the rights of women, workers, the LGBT community and children everywhere she went.
She also praised Mothers of the Movement, a group of African-American women whose children have been killed during stops by police in recent years. These mothers had “taken the heartbreak and anguish” of those deaths and “turned it into action,” Clinton said.
Before her speech was cut short by the rain, Clinton said she wants to be “the president for everybody,” including those who don’t support her in Tuesday’s election.
Trump’s rally, held on the other side of the state in Tampa, appealed to working-class voters with his familiar rants about outsourced factory jobs, a rigged media and rising costs under Obamacare.
“We will stop the jobs from leaving America and we will stop the jobs from leaving the great state of Florida,” Trump told the crowd in Florda’s Gulf Coast city of Tampa, where he took the stage to shouts of “USA! USA!”
“My plan is to bring back your jobs that have been stolen by either stupid politicians or corrupt politicians,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech often turned its focus to Clinton, whose use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state prompted a federal investigation and stoked suspicions about her trustworthiness.
“If she ever got into the Oval Office, Hillary and her special interests and her donors would rob this country blind,” Trump said.
Trump has a 52-per-cent chance of winning Florida, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website that aggregates polling data from across the country.
Trump’s core base of supporters skews white, male and working class, with the Republican candidate winning less support among women, racial minorities and college-educated voters. The Republican candidate has recently tried to improve his pitch to black voters, pledging to work to improve conditions in inner cities where many live and work.
“I love those signs – ‘Blacks for Trump,'” the former reality show celebrity said. “That seems to be the big surprise of this election, blacks for Trump.”
About 5 million of Florida’s 20.27 million residents are Latinos, who experts say could be decisive in the battle for the state.