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Friday December 4th, 2020 6:53PM

The Latest: Biden in Florida, which went for Trump in 2016

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Joe Biden is campaigning in Florida, aiming to deny President Donald Trump a win in a state that is pivotal to his reelection hopes.

The Democratic presidential candidate will appear at two drive-in rallies Thursday, in Broward County and Tampa. Both areas are key to his chances — Broward is the bluest county in the state, home to a sizable population of Black voters, and Tampa is the largest city in the traditional bellwether Florida county of Hillsborough. Underscoring the stakes for the Republican, Trump himself will campaign in Tampa Thursday as well.

Florida is a perennially close state -- it went for Trump by a little more than a percentage point in 2016, and this year, Democrats are making an aggressive play to win back the state’s 29 electoral votes.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is spending $100 million to try to tip the scales for Democrats, and Floridians have seen a parade of Democratic surrogates in recent weeks. Former President Barack Obama campaigned in Miami on Tuesday, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg visited Tampa Wednesday, and Sen. Kamala Harris scheduled to return to the state on Saturday.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE:

President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden are chasing votes in Florida, a state all but essential to the Republican’s pathway to another term, as both nominees turn their focus to encouraging voters to turn out in person on Election Day.

Read more:

— Advocates are mobilizing to get out the vote in myriad ways

— Pelosi agenda envisions big health care, infrastructure push aligned with Biden platform.

— Trump paints an apocalyptic portrait of life under a Biden presidency

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

9:15 p.m.

Kamala Harris is rallying voters in Las Vegas a week out from Election Day, urging people to make a “special effort” not to let the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic “disempower anybody.”

The Democratic vice presidential nominee’s swing through Nevada on Tuesday, including an earlier stop in Reno, came just days before early voting in the state concludes Friday.

She described Joe Biden as a “student of American history” and “a truth teller” who can confront the crises facing the nation.

Harris ran through a litany of Biden’s policies, including how he proposes tackling the pandemic, systemic racism, climate change and the economy.

She seemed to relish contrasting Biden’s record with President Donald Trump’s, laughing as she described how he recently said science doesn’t know what’s fueling Western wildfires.

Talking about Trump’s comments that the nation is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic, Harris quipped: “Come on, man,” before noting, “That’s a Joe Biden term.”

Harris spoke in Las Vegas before roughly 230 voters, spread out on blankets and socially distanced. Nevada has a limit of 250 people for gatherings.

___

8:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s campaign says its website was “defaced” on Tuesday evening.

Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh says the campaign is working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the source of what it called an “attack.”

He adds, “There was no exposure to sensitive data because none of it is actually stored on the site.”

A screenshot of the site shows that it briefly displayed a warning claiming that it had been “seized” because “the world has had enough of the fake-news spreaded daily by president donald j trump.”

It later displayed an error message that read, in part, “This site is currently offline.”

The website has since been restored.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

___

8 p.m.

A political action committee led by Black lawmakers will spend $2 million to mobilize Black voters in over two dozen key congressional districts where it believes increased turnout could help ensure victory for Democrats.

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC IE announced Tuesday that it will target sporadic Black voters in just over 30 House races through digital ads, radio spots and social media campaigns.

The CBC PAC says it hopes to mobilize voters around races in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Texas, Virginia and the Carolinas, among others.

Through polling, the group determined that sporadic voters in these districts are energized to get out and vote against candidates who oppose measures addressing racism, criminal justice and policing reforms, and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The effort includes a digital video ad titled “The Talk,” which is a reference to the conversation that Black parents often have with their children about how to navigate interactions with police.

The 30-second ad suggests voting is a solution to the systemic racism and police brutality that drove protests and unrest this summer around the killing of George Floyd.

___

6:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is holding a big rally in West Salem, Wisconsin, hours after state public health officials announced new highs in reported coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The state announced 5,262 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 64 more deaths, both daily records. Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers accused the White House of giving up on trying to stop the virus and reiterated that Republican leaders are delivering inconsistent messages.

Evers tweeted shortly before Trump’s arrival: “There’s no way to sugarcoat it — we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors, and the people you care about.”

A state appeals court last week blocked an Evers order limiting the size of public indoor gatherings.

The president, however, told rallygoers he wants the state to further lift coronavirus restrictions. Trump says, “Let’s get your governor to open it up.”

___

6:30 p.m.

Joe Biden is setting the stakes for Georgia voters: “We win Georgia, we win everything,” he says.

The Democratic presidential candidate told voters at a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Tuesday to turn out to help win the state not just for him but also for Democratic Senate candidates. Both of Georgia's Republican-held Senate seats are up for a vote next week.

Biden slammed Republican Sen. David Perdue for recently making fun of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris’ name. He says, “That’s got to stop, and it will stop with us.”

Biden emphasized the importance of flipping the Senate and told the crowd: “There’s no state more consequential than Georgia in that fight.”

Biden spoke from a podium set up outside before a sea of 365 cars, many honking throughout his remarks. Supporters waved flags and cheered to drown out a noisy pro-Donald Trump demonstration just outside the fence circling the lot. Hip-hop performers Common and Offset warmed up the crowd before Biden took the stage. Biden tossed his suit jacket when he got to the podium, speaking with his shirtsleeves rolled up.

He spoke in particular to Black voters, a key Democratic constituency in Atlanta, promising he’d establish a liaison to the “Divine Nine” fraternities and sororities and touting that historically Black colleges and universities would be represented in the White House in Harris if they win.

___

5:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has a new message to suburban women as he campaigns in Michigan: “We’re getting your husbands back to work.”

Trump, who polls show has diminishing support from suburban women, also criticized the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Trump told the women in the crowd of thousands in Lansing: “We’re getting your husbands back to work, and everybody wants it and the cure can never be worse than the problem itself.”

The comments came as part of criticism of the state’s governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. The crowd also chanted, “Lock her up!”

Trump took credit for the actions of federal law enforcement in disrupting an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer, while seemingly raising questions about the seriousness of the threat.

“It was our people that helped her out with her problem,” Trump says. “And we’ll have to see if it’s a problem. Right? People are entitled to say, ‘Maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t.’”

___

6:30 p.m.

Joe Biden is setting the stakes for Georgia voters: “We win Georgia, we win everything,” he said Tuesday evening.

The Democratic presidential candidate told voters gathered at a drive-in rally in Atlanta to turn out to help win the state not just for him but for Democrats running for the Senate. Georgia is voting on both of its Republican-held Senate seats next week: Sen. David Perdue is up for reelection, and Sen. Kelly Loeffler is running for a full term in a special election. Polls have suggested both races are close.

Biden slammed Perdue for recently making fun of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris’ name. “That’s gotta stop, and it will stop with us,” he said.

Biden emphasized the importance of flipping the Senate for Democrats, and told the crowd: “There’s no state more consequential than Georgia in that fight.” Democrats need to net four seats to take back the Senate.

Biden spoke from a podium set up outside before a sea of 365 cars, many honking repeatedly throughout his remarks. Supporters waved flags and cheered to drown out a noisy pro-Donald Trump demonstration just outside the fence circling the lot. But the event was high-spirited overall — hip-hop performers Common and Offset warmed up the crowd before Biden took the stage, and the Democrat tossed his suit jacket when he arrived to the podium, speaking with his shirtsleeves rolled up.

He spoke in particular to black voters, a key Democratic constituency in Atlanta, promising them he’d establish a liaison to the “Divine Nine” fraternities and sororities and touting the fact that if he and Harris are elected, historically black colleges and universities would be represented in the White House. Harris graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

__

5:15 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence made a campaign stop in South Carolina with a week until Election Day, in part to help boost Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Alongside Graham, Pence spoke to hundreds of supporters packed into an airplane hangar Tuesday in Greenville, in the state’s conservative northwestern corner.

Graham is facing a tight reelection battle against Democrat Jaime Harrison in a reliably conservative state President Donald Trump is expected to win easily on Nov. 3.

Pence commended Graham’s leadership over Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation. He says Barrett’s confirmation would not have been possible if it weren’t for Graham, whom he called “a stalwart, courageous and principled leader.”

Pence sandwiched the South Carolina stop between trips to battleground North Carolina, where both he and Trump have been campaigning heavily in the election’s closing weeks. On Tuesday, Pence decried what he called Biden’s high tax proposals and promoted the Trump administration’s “law and order” agenda, also specifically speaking of relatives of a local law officer killed recently in the line of duty.

___

5:05 p.m.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is pouring $15 million more of his personal wealth into advertising for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Ohio and Texas.

The former New York City mayor already committed to spending $100 million to help Biden win the battleground state of Florida. But his political organization conducted new polling over the weekend, and Bloomberg authorized spending more in the two states after seeing the results Monday.

Both Texas and Ohio were previously seen as solidly supporting President Donald Trump, and he won both states in 2016. But that’s shifted in the closing weeks of the race, with public opinion polls showing a tight contest.

The new ads will be paid for by Independence USA PAC, Bloomberg’s super political action committee.

Ads airing in Ohio will target Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Biden’s “Build Back Better” call for new investment. In Texas, ads will run in both English and Spanish and focus on Trump’s management of the virus.

The ads will begin airing Wednesday and run through Nov. 3.

___

4:10 p.m.

Melania Trump is slamming Joe Biden, Democrats and the media as she campaigns for her husband in Pennsylvania.

In her first solo appearance of the presidential campaign, Mrs. Trump says Democrats focused on a “sham impeachment” instead of the coronavirus pandemic. She denounced what she called Biden’s “socialist agenda” and criticized media coverage of “idle gossip and palace intrigue.”

Melania Trump also defended President Donald Trump’s record on COVID-19 even as he continues to downplay the threat of a virus that has killed more than 226,000 Americans.

She declared, “We will triumph over this virus.” Her husband’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said over the weekend that the U.S. is not going to be able to contain the virus.

The first lady’s event 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Philadelphia drew a couple hundred supporters who piled into a converted barn typically used for wedding receptions. The overwhelming majority wore masks, but there was little social distancing.

Mrs. Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this month along with her husband, and she decided against attending a rally with the president last week because she was still feeling lingering symptoms.

___

3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump has started a busy day of campaigning with a cold, rain-soaked rally in Lansing, Michigan.

Most polls show Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden in a state that Trump won narrowly in his 2016 victory. The president told the thousands that gathered on Tuesday that “seven days from now we’re going to win the great state of Michigan.”

Some of Trump’s supporters waited four hours in the wet, near-freezing temperatures to see him.

Trump says their enthusiasm underscores to him that he’s got momentum going into the final days before the election.

Trump also plans to campaign Tuesday in Wisconsin and Nebraska.

___

2:55 p.m.

Joe Biden is telling Americans to “clear the decks for action” on everything from the coronavirus pandemic to the economy if he is elected president.

In remarks at Warm Springs, Georgia, Biden went after President Donald Trump and his administration for saying they can’t contain the virus, calling it a “capitulation” and “a waving of a white flag” on the virus. Biden said it revealed “the shocking truth of this White House: that they’ve never really tried” to deal with the pandemic. He says Trump “turned a crisis into a tragedy.”

Biden warned that “with winter at hand, it’s getting worse,” noting the surging number of cases across the U.S.

In contrast with Trump, Biden pledged that he would act “on the first day of my presidency to get COVID under control.” Biden also said he’d pass an economic plan that would “finally reward work,” a health care plan and a climate plan, and he pledged to address systemic racism.

The remarks come as Biden made a late play for Georgia, a traditionally red state where Democrats see an opening because of Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. He’s also slated to speak at a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Tuesday evening.

___

2:15 p.m.

Joe Biden is offering a hopeful call for healing in the face of the “lasting wound” the coronavirus pandemic has left on the country.

In Warm Springs, Georgia, the Democratic presidential nominee spoke Tuesday of the need for the nation to come together to address its challenges and overcome division. Biden asked if the heart of the nation “turned to stone,” and replied: “I don’t think so. I refuse to believe it.”

With just a week left until Election Day, Biden is making his closing pitch to the nation with a message focused on unity and a call to rise above the division he says President Donald Trump has sown while in office. It’s a message with which Biden launched his campaign in May 2019, and it’s one he’s returned to again and again as he’s sought to draw a contrast with Trump.

Previously, Biden’s last major speech on the theme of unity was held at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in early October. His setting Tuesday was intentional as well: Warm Springs was home to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s private retreat and where he came to recover from polio. Biden made reference to the history made there under Roosevelt, saying the site was “a reminder that, though broken, each of us can be healed” and the country “can overcome this devastating virus” and “heal a suffering world.”

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