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What you need to know about the 2020 elections across the greater Tampa Bay region.

President Trump Wins Florida

President Trump at rally

Trump’s lead over Biden in Florida appeared to top the president’s 1.2 percentage-point victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

President Donald Trump has won Florida and its 29 electoral votes, which could help determine the fate of the White House

With about 96 percent of the votes counted by nearly 1 a.m., the Republican president had more than a three percentage-point advantage over his Democratic rival. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida GOP leaders had already declared Trump the winner late Tuesday. Trump’s lead over Biden in Florida appeared to top the president’s 1.2 percentage-point victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“I am proud to announce that Florida has once again delivered for President Donald J. Trump and that Florida Republicans will retain control of both chambers of the Florida Legislature,” DeSantis, a close ally of the president, said in a prepared statement.

Despite Democrats’ prediction of a “blue wave” in the 2020 elections, Republican candidates appeared to make gains up and down the ticket, including in two closely watched South Florida congressional races where incumbent Democrats were poised to be ousted by GOP challengers.

The 2020 presidential election came amid a widening partisan divide, a once-in-a-century pandemic and a national reckoning over racial disparities, with Democrats calling the election a judgment on the Republican president’s incendiary rhetoric and Trump branding his opponents as “socialists.”

But heightened tensions on the political front only fueled Florida voters, resulting in unprecedented turnout for mail-in ballots and early voting before polls even opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday. More than 10 million voters, or about 75 percent, of Florida’s 14.4 million registered voters cast ballots in the election.

Tuesday’s in-person voting followed weeks of barnstorming in the Sunshine State by Trump, Biden and their surrogates as they vied for Florida’s 29 electoral votes, a key component of a White House victory for both candidates but considered essential for Trump’s re-election efforts.

The Republican largely concentrated on GOP strongholds in The Villages, the Panhandle and Miami-Dade County, where Cuban-American voters fiercely support Trump.

Trump, in pitches to white, Hispanic and blue-collar voters, for the most part ignored the coronavirus pandemic and instead played up the nation’s economic and job gains in the first three years of his tenure as president.

He painted Biden and his Democratic running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, as “socialists,” playing to the fears of Latin Americans and Cubans who fled dictatorships for the promise of democracy in the U.S.

Biden, meanwhile, focused on Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida as well as areas rich in Democratic votes, such as Broward County and the Tampa Bay area.

The presidential candidates’ campaigns reflected the acrimonious divide among Americans, with Trump holding numerous mega-rallies. Appearing before largely unmasked crowds of thousands, he hammered on a national economy that was soaring prior to widespread shutdowns prompted by outbreaks of COVID-19 in the spring.

Trump boasted of what he maintains were record gains in the stock market and job creation before the coronavirus began spreading throughout the country and pledged a law-and-order crackdown on violent protesters in cities and states run by Democrats.

Biden struck a stark contrast to Trump’s combative demeanor, both in style and substance.

The former vice president for the most part conducted virtual events until the final two weeks of the campaign and, once on the campaign trail, adhered to social distancing-guidelines by holding drive-in rallies or more intimate gatherings.

Biden, 77, centered his campaign on his character and that of his opponent, saying that Trump --- a real estate developer who became a brand after his reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” became a hit --- was unworthy of the office.

“I believe very, very, strongly that we have to restore decency and honor in our system or it’s just going to fall apart,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.

Biden accused Trump of mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 230,000 people in the U.S., including more than 16,800 Floridians, and promised to reinstate a scientific approach to the pandemic largely scrapped by Trump, whose chief of staff recently said that the administration would not try to contain the virus.

Trump made numerous visits to Miami-Dade County, as he wooed Cuban-American voters. The president’s campaign made a “real-deal commitment” targeting Hispanic voters throughout the state, Trump 2020 senior advisor Jason Miller told reporters in a phone call before the polls closed Tuesday evening.

“What we’re seeing with the Cuban-American community, the Colombian-American community, the Venezuelan-American community in South Florida is nothing short of spectacular,” Miller said. “They’re excited to vote for President Trump.”

Trump’s efforts in Miami-Dade County appeared to pay off, with lackluster Democratic turnout there possibly cost Biden a Sunshine State loss.

Trump’s bombastic style, which catapulted him to victory over Clinton four years ago, appeared to endear him to voters in Florida, where he was exalted by flotillas of supporters on sea, caravans of enthusiastic backers on highways, and hordes of shoulder-to-shoulder cheering fans at rallies.

The president was greeted with a chorus of “We love you” from a cheering crowd at an airport in Opa-locka at his last stop on a whirlwind tour on Sunday.

“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,” Trump, who moved his residence to Palm Beach County, said early Monday morning.

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