Joe Biden and President Donald Trump held dueling rallies in Florida on Thursday, painting a stark contrast in how they viewed the United States and the Covid-19 pandemic in the key battleground state just five days before Election Day.
In Coconut Creek, Florida, just outside Fort Lauderdale, Biden held a drive-in car rally with strict social distance rules, during which he attacked Trump over his administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its failure to combat systemic racism.
"I know it's hard. Over the past few months there’s been so much pain, so much suffering, so much loss," the Democratic presidential nominee said. "Millions of people out there are out of work, on the edge, can’t see the light of the end of the tunnel, and Donald Trump has given up."
“He is doing nothing. We're learning to die with it and Donald Trump has waved the white flag, abandoned our families and surrendered to the virus,” he added. “But the American people don't give up, we don't give in and we surely don't cower, and nor will I under any circumstances."
Trump, meanwhile, held a “Make America Great Again” rally in Tampa, where a large crowd of mostly maskless fans sitting close to one another cheered loudly as the president touted his own quick recovery from Covid-19 — a virus that has so far, in the U.S., sickened nearly 9 million people and killed more than 229,000.
"You know the bottom line, though?" Trump told the crowd. "You're gonna get better. You're gonna get better."
"If I can get better, anybody can get better. And I got better fast," he added, as rallygoers cheered wildly.
But Trump's Covid-19 treatment was different from the experience of average Americans sickened with the virus. He was under the care of more than a dozen doctors and received a number of experimental and expensive treatments to which many Americans would not typically have such rapid access.
In his speech Thursday, Biden also addressed nationwide protests against systemic racism in the U.S., using the topic to draw stark contrasts between himself and the president.
“While Donald Trump fails to condemn white supremacy, we can deliver on racial justice,” Biden said. “Donald Trump believes he doesn't believe there is any such thing as systemic racism as a problem. He won't even say Black Lives Matter.”
“You know and I know Black lives do matter and so do others, and that's why this season a protest is broken out all across the nation,” he said.
Trump, for his part, attacked the protests, claiming that unrest in Minneapolis in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, which sparked a global uprising, would result in him winning Minnesota next week.
He also attacked Biden for having previously referred to antifa as an ideology rather than a specific group.
"Biden called it an idea, he said antifa is just an idea. I said not when you get hit over the head behind your back with a baseball bat, that is not an idea," Trump said.
Trump spoke for just under an hour, and temperatures in the high-80s wound up sending a dozen attendees to the hospital, officials said. A total of 17 rallygoers needed medical treatment, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.
Biden held a second drive-in rally later in the day in Tampa as part of a furious effort in the waning days of the race to flip Florida blue, but he wound up cutting the rally short after it started to rain. "I'm going to shorten this for you all," Biden told the crowd after speaking for about 20 minutes. "Get out of the rain!"
In Coconut Creek, Biden told the crowd, “If Florida goes blue, it’s over, it’s over,” to the sound of blaring car horns and cheers.
Biden also spoke directly to the state’s large Latino population — specifically its Cuban population — whom he’ll need to perform well if he wants to carry the state.
“We have to vote for a new Cuba policy as well. This administration approach isn't working. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago," he said.
Trump, meanwhile, attempted to tie Biden to the leftist wing of the Democratic Party — and then tied that to socialist regimes in Latin America which many Latino voters in Florida have fled from.
"As long as I am president, America will never be a socialist country, and I say it all the time. This election will decide whether our children will be condemned to the misery of socialism or whether they will inherit the glorious legacy of American freedom," Trump said.
Polls show the race in Florida in a dead heat.
A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released earlier Thursday showed Biden leading Trump in the state 45 percent to 42 percent. A Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Florida released earlier Thursday showed Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 45 percent. Both the results of both polls were within their margins of error.
Meanwhile, the latest Real Clear Politics polling average in the state shows Biden leading Trump by 1.4 percentage points.