The Sunshine State was an alluring target for the Joe Biden campaign. With 29 electoral votes, Florida has a huge footprint on the electoral map. And unlike some other battleground states, it processes results quickly: A win there would have essentially ended the election in a few hours.
On top of all that, it would have been redemption for Democrats: Barack Obama won the state twice. Hillary Clinton lost it in 2016.
But with most votes counted, it appears Biden’s path to an easy victory nationwide has been shut down. Without putting Florida in his column, Biden has to rely more on the midwestern states — states that may not be called, or even projected, for days.
With 97% of expected votes counted, The Associated Press reported, Trump was nearly 400,000 votes ahead. Polling in the state that reliably showed Biden ahead, sometimes by a few points, appears to have been too optimistic.
For Trump, meanwhile, the Sunshine state bodes well: If Trump does win Florida, it will largely be due to an underwhelming Biden performance in Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous. Clinton beat Donald Trump 63% to 34% there in 2016: 624,146 votes to 333,999. Now, the margin is just a few points.
Biden hit his marks, and maybe even outperformed expectations in other parts of the state, according to Kevin Cate, a Florida-based Democratic strategist told TPM.
“There’s lots of good news. That is what was so disappointing about Miami-Dade. It’s that Biden did good enough pretty much everywhere else,” Cate said.
But Biden’s performance in Miami-Dade is “about the most devastating collapse from 2016 possible,” Cate said. He called it an “abject failure at every level.“
“We have to figure it out if we ever want Florida to be considered purple again,” he said.
By keeping Florida in his column, Trump has kept alive his hope of winning reelection. It also significantly decreases the likelihood that the presidential election will be called on the evening of Election Day.
Florida, with its ample pre-pandemic experience conducting mail-in voting, was able to return results much more quickly than what is expected in the Upper Midwestern states that now are likely to determine the ultimate winner of the White House.
That “Blue Wall” of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan is where Trump achieved his unexpected victory in 2016, and he’ll have to overcome a polling disadvantage in 2020 to win them again.
Elsewhere, a handful of other close races in states Clinton lost — Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and even Texas if the former vice president does surprisingly well there — could help cushion the blow to Biden.