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The Florida Roundup

Presidential Candidates Prove How Important Florida Is To Winning the White House

Biden Trump
AP
Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump (right)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Tampa this week — in a key swing part of this swing state. The president will return on Sunday night for a rally in Miami-Dade County, just days before Election Day.

Senator Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, will also visit South Florida this weekend. It highlights how crucial it is for either campaign to win the state’s 29 electoral votes.

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Florida, with its diverse demographic makeup, has not displayed a strong fidelity for any one political party in several election cycles. It’s been nearly a century since a Republican candidate won the election without winning Florida. So, it seems unlikely that the president can win re-election without the Sunshine State.

On the Florida Roundup, Chris Cillizza, reporter and editor-at-large with CNN Politics, joined host Melissa Ross. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation.

MELISSA ROSS: Your CNN colleague Sanjay Gupta reported this week that in many counties where President Trump has held big rallies, COVID infections jump in those counties after his visit. Although they weren't able to document that here in Florida, where the president has rallied numerous times as coronavirus is spiking here and around the country. What are your thoughts about how this is playing in Florida with our large senior population and how that will impact their vote?

CHRIS CILLIZZA: First of all, on the senior point, I think it's hugely important not just in Florida, but in the country. Seniors — 65 plus — are by far the most reliable age group in terms of voting. These are people who are consistent voters. We see essentially your likelihood of participating in an election dips as you get younger, all the way down to about 18.

Older voters have long been the coin of the realm for candidates who want to win. That's not just true in Florida, though obviously, it is true there because of the number of seniors there, but true nationally. What we've seen is that Donald Trump, if you believe polling and I broadly speaking do, has really struggled among that age group. And I think it is not a coincidence that seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

And Donald Trump has, and continues to take a decidedly cavalier and dismissive approach, not just to the virus, but to people who have gotten sick and passed away. On Thursday in Florida, He said, "If you get it, you'll get better. I got better. And if I can get better, anyone can get better."

I mean, I think there's an argument to be made that's not necessarily true. Not everyone gets the medical treatment that the president, or can afford the medical treatment that the president of the United States can. His son, Don Jr., said it's such a small number of people, it's almost no one, talking about deaths.

Well, I think the 280,000 people who died and their families would disagree with that. So I think it's hugely problematic in Florida and nationwide, the way in which Donald Trump is judged to have handled Coronavirus, which is, you know, a majority people believe he has mishandled.

We did have 73 new deaths from COVID reported today in Florida. We've surpassed 800,000 positive cases. The raw number of new daily cases here is up at its highest level for nearly two months. Nine million COVID cases now around the country. So plain and simple, this is the COVID election. It has upended everything, including the way we vote. Let me ask you about that. Because we are seeing really robust turnout in Florida, both voting by mail and early voting. Lots of people are choosing to vote by mail because of the virus. We do pre-count the ballots here in Florida, unlike some other vote-by-mail states. So we could have a result here on November 3rd. And that could provide some clarity the evening of the election, depending on which way Florida goes, right?

Absolutely. Look, it's been 96 years since a candidate, a Republican candidate, was elected president without winning Florida. I tell people that even when I'm not doing radio on Florida stations, because it is such a central state to a Republican map, its size, its number of electoral votes, it is essential for Donald Trump. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

Are there paths to the 270 electoral votes that do not include Florida for Trump? Sure. I mean, we could go through a semi-plausible path, but they are very unlikely. If it is shown that he has lost Florida November 3rd, November 4th, whenever, it is a very telling sign.

If you told me today, Donald Trump loses Florida on November 3rd. I would tell you there is a 95 plus percent chance that Joe Biden is elected the next president of the United States — just because of how central it is to both candidates, to both parties, but particularly to Republicans and even more particularly to Donald Trump's math.

There just isn't another state the size of Florida and the number of electoral votes of Florida that he can pop in and replace a loss in Florida with.

Denise Royal produces The Florida Roundup. Her broadcast experience includes writing and producing for NBC’s The Today Show, Weekend Today, Weekend Nightly News, and MSNBC. She also worked as a Writer/Producer for ABC News and Nightly Business Report on PBS.