US Election 2020

Kamala Harris in Florida: where and when will she campaign?

Joe Biden's running mate will resume her campaign in Florida as the Democrats look to overhaul the Republicans in the most vital of swing states.

Kamala Harris in Florida: where and when will she campaign?
RONDA CHURCHILL AFP

Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris will travel to Florida on Monday to make her first public appearance since isolating after a fellow passenger on a campaign flight tested positive for covid-19. The Democratic nominee for vice president will be in Orlando and Jacksonville on 19 October to help win over any undecided voters in what looks like being a crucial swing state.

Harris had voluntarily undergone a period of isolation but campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon confirmed that she was "not in close contact as defined by the CDC, with this individual at any time”.

Democrats schedule appearance for first day of Florida early voting

Harris’ trip to the Sunshine State takes place on the first day of in-person early voting, the first opportunity for Floridians to cast their vote for the 2020 Presidential Election in a polling station. There have already been record-breaking numbers of early voters and both candidates are desperate to ensure that they reach voters before it is too late. As of Saturday 17 October, over 26 million Americans had already cast their vote.

Specific details of the events have not yet been released but it is known that Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff will join her on the Florida campaign trail, hitting Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties in the coming days. Harris last visited Florida as recently as September when she gave a speech at Florida Memorial University and stopped off in Doral.

Both sides focus on Florida

Florida is the largest of the predicted swing states in this election and contributes a massive 29 Electoral College votes for the victor. In 2016, Donald Trump won by just over 100,000 votes in a race with nearly 10 million votes cast. It is of huge tactical significance to both sides and both candidates have already made numerous visits to secure the vital votes.

By 13 October, campaign spending on TV adverts in Florida alone had already reached $257.5 million. Biden and allies had contributed $154.1 million of that figure, while Trump and his supporters had spent another $103.4 million. This year more than ever, winning “the 1% state” will be crucial.

The President’s first rally after returning to the campaign trail was in Sanford, Florida on 12 October and both Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. have given speeches in Florida in recent weeks. However polls suggest that the Republicans’ prospects have been dented by the state’s spiralling coronavirus death toll, which surpassed 15,000 last week.

Biden has also looked to focus his campaign on the Sunshine State and held a rally in Miramir Regional Park on 13 October. He told the audience: "Despite the crisis we face, we have an enormous opportunity to build this country back better”.

Why is Florida so important historically?

With the largest Electoral College vote of the swings states, it is no surprise that Florida has voted for the winning presidential candidate in each of the last five elections. The state’s 29 electoral votes comprise 5.4% of the total and hold 10.7% of the total vote required to secure a majority in the Electoral College, and win the election.

But beyond the simple mathematics the unique demographic constitution of Florida makes it a constantly shifting entity. It has a large Hispanic population who would typically lean towards the Democrats, but also features a number of traditionally Republican spots like Duval County and Jacksonville. It is no surprise that the Democrats will visit both of those areas during the course of this election campaign.

Florida’s generally older population would usually be expected to vote Republican but the latest polls suggest that the state’s senior citizens are shifting towards Biden. In the 2016 Presidential Election Trump secured a comprehensive victory amongst the state’s older voters but many polls now put the two candidates at neck-and-neck in that demographic this time around.