Florida shattered its opening day record for in-person early voting today, with at least 350,000 people casting ballots and election officials continuing to count statewide late into the night.

The trend continues a record-setting pace in the battleground state that is viewed as a must-win for President Trump.

Voting by mail, which started earlier this month, racked up more than 2.5 million ballots headed into Monday, more than double the 1.2 million during the same timeframe in 2016.

The Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes are the key for Trump, who likely cannot reach 270 electoral votes and win reelection without them.

No Republican has won the presidency without winning Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

The Real Clear Politics polling average has former Vice President Joe Biden ahead narrowly – by just 1.4 percent.

Both Trump and Biden were supposed to be in Miami last week for the second presidential debate, but it was cancelled after Trump refused to participate virtually.

Trump traveled to the state twice last week.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff were in Florida today.

Biden last traveled to the state last Tuesday.

Democrats have a significant pre-Election Day lead, built by a more than 450,000 vote-by-mail lead, through Monday, but Republicans insist they are just “cannibalizing” their in-person vote.

Put another way, they say Democrats are not gaining additional voters, but that voters in candidate Joe Biden’s party are just changing how they participate because of Democrats’ greater emphasis on voting by mail during a global pandemic.

Under state law, counties can offer up to two weeks of early voting and many do, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and other population centers.

Large counties offer multiple sites and all counties allow those who have received mail-in ballots to drop them off.

The Trump campaign will need to cut into an early advantage Democrats have posted in mail-in ballots.

About 2.5 million mail-in ballots have already been cast, with Democrats returning 1.2 million and Republicans about 755,000 as of Sunday. Non-affiliated voters and third-party members make up the rest.

The number of mail-in votes is already approaching the 2.7 million cast in 2016 when Republicans had a 70,000-vote margin on returns. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the state by about 113,000 votes.

Florida Republicans have said they aren’t worried about the mail-in gap, believing any advantage Biden gets will be swamped by Trump supporters casting in-person ballots starting this week and on Election Day.

Trump moved his official residence to his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago from New York last year.

Barack Obama carried Florida twice, in 2008 and 2012, but Trump beat Clinton by 1.2% in 2016.

 

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