President Donald Trump told a campaign rally in Florida that Joe Biden is the person he would “most like to fight” as he made a late-night last gasp bid for votes in the critical battleground state ahead of Tuesday’s election.
During a speech in which he repeatedly attempted to woo the Sunshine State’s large Latino and Hispanic community, Mr Trump, 74, mocked his Democratic challenger’s appearance, labelling him “weak”.
Mr Trump’s remarks came during a frenetic day of campaigning in which he barrelled through five states in a desperate race to gain ground on Mr Biden, 77, who is well ahead in most national and battleground polls. Mr Biden focused Sunday’s campaigning efforts in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Polls in Florida, where the president must win to stand any chance of remaining in the White House, show a much tighter race, with Mr Biden ahead by just over 2 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight‘s latest survey.
The president chose Opa-Locka, Miami, as his last stop on a day when he also visited the key states of Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina and Georgia. Proceedings in Opa-Locka kicked off at 11.30 pm and spilt over into Monday morning, despite a local curfew of midnight.
“He’s a weak person,” Mr Trump said of his rival, as he addressed a packed Make American Great Again event at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. “You know, he challenged me. Do you remember? A year and a half ago… ‘I’d like to take him behind a barn'”, he added, referencing 2018 remarks made by the former vice president when he said he would “beat the hell” out of Mr Trump.
“And I said, ‘Of all the people in the world that I could fight, that’s probably the one I’d most like to fight,” Mr Trump told thousands of supporters who broke into chants of “lock him up, lock him up”.
“Those legs have gotten very thin, not a lot of base,” the president added. “You wouldn’t have to close the fist,” he went on, suggesting it would be easy to knock Mr Biden off his feet. “By the way, he brought it up.”
Florida has 29 electoral college votes up for grabs, making it one of the most important states on the electoral map. The state has been a toss-up over the past few decades. It chose Richard Nixon in 1972, Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2016, before swinging back to the Republicans and Mr Trump in 2016.
The president’s margin of victory in Florida in 2016 was small, securing just over 100,000 more votes than then-Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. But if Mr Biden can turn Florida blue again then it is difficult to see how Mr Trump can win the 270 electoral college votes required to hold onto power.
Ever since 2016’s win, the president’s team has been seeking to consolidate its support among the Latino community in Florida, whose residents make up around a fifth of the state’s population.
Although the president is trailing Mr Biden nationally among Latinos, his advantage in Florida – where Cubans, Venezuelans and Colombians make up a significant part of the population – appears to be strong.
Analysts say those voters – whose home countries’ economies have been crippled by communism – prefer Mr Trump’s approach to the economy and also prefer a leader who they perceive as “strong”. During Sunday night’s rally, Mr Trump dedicated time attempting to convince those voters that Mr Biden had “let them down” for years economically. “For 47 years, sleepy Joe Biden betrayed Hispanic Americans,” the president said, to chants of “knock him out”.
On Monday, the president is scheduled to make stops two stops in Michigan and will also visit North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while Mr Biden again focuses on his home state, with a visit to Pittsburgh.