Biden, Trump head to Florida for dueling rallies in battleground state

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his campaign event at The Villages Polo Club on October 23, 2020 in The Villages, Florida. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about his plans for combatting the coronavirus pandemic at The Queen theater on October 23, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Getty Photos)

(CNN) — The battle for Florida is at the forefront of the presidential race Thursday as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden hold dueling rallies in the marquee swing state.

Trump is set to hold a 1:30 p.m. ET rally in Tampa, part of a crucial swing region in Florida. At the same time, Biden will be in South Florida’s Broward County — home to an enormous Democratic electorate where he’ll aim to run up a large advantage on election night. Then, at 6:30 p.m. ET, Biden, too, will visit Tampa.

The stakes in Florida are highest for Trump, who would have virtually no path to 270 electoral votes without winning the state where he defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in 2016.

For Biden, whose campaign’s primary focus is rebuilding the “blue wall” of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a win in fast-counting Florida would be a sign of strength on election night — and could bring the contest to an early, decisive end.

Trump and Biden are competing for an increasingly smaller pool of votes there. By Wednesday morning, more than 6.9 million people had cast their votes in Florida, according to the state’s Division of Elections — a figure that is already approaching the 9.6 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, and is nearly half of the state’s population of 14.4 million registered voters.

Recent polls in Florida have shown Biden a tight race. CNN’s Poll of Polls tracking the average poll result in the race puts Biden at 49% to Trump’s 45%.

Florida is also clear evidence that Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are feeling a cash pinch, reducing planned spending there by $2 million.

Biden is set to outspend the President and the national party in Florida during the final week of the campaign: The former vice president and the Democratic National Committee have reserved roughly $6.8 million in advertising in the state, more than double the $2.9 million currently that the Trump campaign and the RNC are on tap to spend, the data show.

Biden is also benefiting from a $100 million blitz by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Florida through his super PAC, Independence USA. Bloomberg’s PAC recently expanded its advertising efforts into Texas and Ohio, two more must-win states for Trump.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, a former governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate, is making what Politico reported would be a six-figure ad buy — a tiny fraction of what Bloomberg is spending — on a direct-to-camera ad of his own boosting Trump.