OPA LOCKA (CBSMiami) – President Donald Trump wrapped up a whirlwind weekend of campaigning in South Florida.
After holding rallies in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia, President Trump arrived at Opa-Locka Executive Airport for a late night rally.
Air Force One landed at 11:35 p.m., the President was running about 40 minutes later than scheduled but the spirited crowd, which had been waiting for hours, didn't mind.
As soon as he hit the stage at 11:47 p.m., the crowd starting yelling, "We love you."
Florida is crucial for his chances to stay in the White House. He is confident, on stage, of a victory.
"Two days from now we are going to win my home state of Florida and we are going to win four more years in the White House," he said to the crowd, many of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing.
That had his opponents firing back. Miami-Dade County has seen an uptick in new case daily COVID-19 positive rates and patients in the hospital. The coronavirus outbreak had brought concerns over Election Day turnout, with Republicans hoping to narrow the advantage opened up by Democrats in their push to encourage people to vote by mail.
As for Sunday night's rally, the Trump campaign told the Miami-Dade mayor's office, the event would be over before midnight, but it wasn't. The President even told the crowd that since it was his final rally of the night, he could speak "all night long" because he didn't need to rush to another city. The crowd cheered with delight.
His speech last almost exactly an hour and ended at 12:49 a.m.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez spoke at the rally. He wasn't greeted with a warm welcome. The crowd chanted "open up" while the county's Republican mayor urged them to vote for President Trump.
"We want to make sure we have freedom here in the United States. We want to make sure we have freedom in Miami-Dade County. We need you to get out there and vote for President Trump," he said.
Gimenez also didn't enforce the countywide curfew. Earlier in the day, he said there was still a midnight curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19. But since hundreds of people parked in Hialeah and the campaign provided buses for supporters to travel, the mayor said the county would allow those at the rally to get home safely.
In a statement responding to this rally, The Biden Harris campaign said in part:
"President Trump will hold another one of his potential super-spreader rallies in Florida tonight, putting his supporters and Floridians they come into contact with in danger. This rally isn't for Floridians; it's to fuel his own ego, with no regard for the issues working Floridians face every day. Over 16,500 Floridians have lost their lives to COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands are without work because of President Trump's failed leadership and lies. As cases continue to rise ahead of Election Day, President Trump offers no plan to contain the spread of the coronavirus, or a plan to get the more than 750,000 Floridians who've lost their jobs in this crisis back to work. His failures truly know no bounds.."
At one point, when the President was complaining about the news media coverage of COVID-19, the crowd broke out into a "Fire Fauci" chant.
"Don't tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election," Trump said to cheers. "I appreciate the advice."
Later, Trump claimed Fauci is "a nice guy but he's been wrong a lot."
During the rally, Trump took time to mention some of Florida high's profile Republican politicians such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott, and Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, but when he thanked Gimenez, who is also running for Congress, President Trump mispronounced his name.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden spent the day in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he also expects to spend most of Monday after a trip to Ohio, a state Trump won by about eight percentage points. Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris returned to Florida on Saturday.
Former President Barack Obama is also scheduled to return to Miami on Monday at an event billed as an election close-out rally.
The last-minute push by both presidential campaigns underscored the importance of Florida's 29 electoral votes, the largest cache among the country's prized swing states.
By Sunday, more than 8.7 million Floridians had already cast ballots — approaching the 9.5 million total cast in the 2016 presidential election — and the campaigns were making their final appeals to drive the rest of the state's 14 million registered voters to the polls Tuesday.
The most recent presidential polls show Florida remains a toss-up and the last-minute campaign blitzes are signs of that uncertainty, said Susan MacManus, a longtime professor of political science at the University of South Florida.
"If you feel confident your side's going to win, you're not going to spend your last precious moments coming over to a state like this if you think you've got it in the bag," she said. "And they are leaving no part of Florida untouched," MacManus added.
Early voting in Florida ended Sunday, and elections officials cautioned people who had planned to vote by mail to play it safe by hand delivering their completed ballots to elections offices or deposit them in official drop boxes.
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