Polls open in battleground state amid record run-up in early voting in US
Early voting for the Nov 3 presidential election began in the battleground state of Florida on Monday, helping to push the number of early ballots cast in the United States toward 28 million, a record mark with barely two weeks left in the campaign.
US President Donald Trump, running out of time to change the dynamics of a race that polls show him losing, was scheduled to visit Arizona on Monday after holding a rally in Nevada on Sunday and urging his supporters to vote amid signs that Democrats are leading the surge in early voting.
His Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who campaigned in another key state, North Carolina, on Sunday, was expected to spend the day at his home base in Delaware. His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, was due to visit Florida to encourage supporters to vote early.
Florida is widely seen as a must-win for Trump, whose path to victory becomes razor-thin if he loses the southern state. The state's prize of 29 electoral votes is tied with New York for third most, behind only California and Texas, in the race for the 270 Electoral College votes that determine the presidential winner under the US system.
An Oct 7-14 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Biden with 49 percent of voter support and Trump 47 percent, within the survey's credibility interval of 4 percentage points.
Both campaigns have poured advertising money into Florida, although Biden, who has significantly outraised Trump since the summer while setting consecutive monthly records for a US candidate, has outspent his Republican rival.
Trump raked in $12 million during a fundraiser on Sunday afternoon at the Newport Beach home of top GOP donor and tech mogul Palmer Luckey, which also featured a performance by the Beach Boys.
Another edge for Biden
But over the past four months, Biden has raised over $1 billion, a massive amount of money that has eclipsed Trump's once-overwhelming cash advantage.
Harris, who was given a clean bill of health after an aide tested positive for COVID-19, was scheduled to participate in early-vote rallies in Orlando and Jacksonville, the campaign said.
Trump was expected to stage rallies first in Prescott and later in Tucson, Arizona, another state for which both his campaign and Biden's are competing.
The 27.9 million US citizens who have already voted either by mail or in person, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, is a far greater number at this point in the campaign than in previous years. Voters have now cast about 20 percent of the overall total in 2016, when more than 136.6 million cast ballots.
Democrats account for 55 percent of the 10.9 million ballots cast in states that report party registration data, compared with 24 percent for Republicans.
At a rally in Carson City, Nevada, on Sunday, where voting began the day before, Trump implored his supporters to "get out and vote" to help him flip a state that he lost narrowly to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The rally drew thousands of supporters who sat elbow to elbow, cheering Trump and booing Biden and the press. The vast majority wore no masks to guard against the coronavirus, though cases in the state are on the rise, with more than 1,000 new infections reported on Saturday.
Despite his recent recovery from his own bout with the virus, Trump also mocked Biden in Nevada for his cautious approach toward the pandemic.
"Listen to the scientists!" Trump said in a mocking voice. "If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression."
In North Carolina, a battleground where 1.4 million, or 20 percent, of the state's registered voters had already voted as of Sunday morning, Biden urged residents to cast ballots as soon as possible. He attacked Trump for saying the country had "turned the corner" on the pandemic.
"Things are getting worse, and he continues to lie to us about circumstances," Biden said.
Biden and Trump debate for a final time on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.
Agencies and Heng Weili in New York contributed to this story.