President Donald Trump was narrowly leading Democratic rival Joe Biden in the vital battleground state of Florida on Tuesday, while other competitive swing states that will help decide the election outcome, such as Georgia and North Carolina, remained up in the air.
The two contenders split the first U.S. states to be projected in the White House race, with conservative states like Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee going to Trump and Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia going to Biden, according to projections by television networks and Edison Research.
But in Florida, widely seen by voting experts as a must-win state for Trump in his quest for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, Trump was leading Biden 50.5% to 48.5% based on about 90% of the estimated total votes. Electoral College votes are assigned to each state, in part based on their population.
Part of Trump’s strength in Florida came from an improved performance relative to 2016 in the state’s counties with large Latino populations.
Biden was leading in counties where Hispanics make up more than 20% of the population, but Trump’s share of the vote in those counties was larger than it was in the 2016 election. More than four in 10 Hispanic voters in Florida said they cast a ballot for Trump, according to an Edison Research exit poll.
Biden, 77, still has multiple paths to the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win without Florida despite having spent lots of time and money trying to flip the state that backed Trump, 74, in 2016.
Biden took the lead in other battlegrounds. He led Trump by 52.5% to 46.4% in North Carolina with 68% of estimated votes reported. Voting experts have warned that the early vote counting in North Carolina could favor Biden because election officials start processing mail-in ballots weeks before Election Day. Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling shows that people who already have voted in North Carolina support the Democratic challenger by a more than 2-to-1 margin over the president.
In Ohio, Biden led 55.3% to 43.5% with 43.5% of estimated votes. And in Texas, Biden narrowly led 49.4% to 49.3% with 55% of estimated votes reported.
Voters, many wearing masks and maintaining social-distancing to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, streamed into polling places through the day, experiencing long lines in a few locales and short waits in many other places. There were no signs of disruptions or violence at polling sites, as some officials had feared.