Subscriber OnlyAn Irish Diary

Suzanne Lynch’s US Election Diary: Greetings from Florida, one of the most closely watched races

President refuses to denounce far-right conspiracy movement QAnon during combative broadcast

Greetings from Miami where I have been on the campaign trail with Roberto, a volunteer with the local Democratic party. Florida promises to be one of the closely watched races in this election, as both parties try to secure the 29 electoral votes on offer.

Although Donald Trump’s support has been slipping among over-65s – an important constituency in the sunshine state – Hispanic voters are also an important voting bloc.

Joe Biden has been struggling with Hispanic voters, with Democrats facing a particular tough challenge in Miami where Cuban-Americans tend to vote Republican. Certainly many of the Latino voters I spoke to here are unwavering in their support for Trump (full report in this weekend's Irish Times).

The man himself was in town last night for an NBC town hall. The second presidential debate had been scheduled to take place in the city, but it was cancelled after Trump objected to a virtual format.

Instead both presidential candidates faced off in rival broadcasts – Biden participated in an ABC town hall last night from Philadelphia, with Trump partaking in an NBC town hall here in Miami.

Even before the event began last night NBC was facing criticism for scheduling the event to clash with Biden’s forum. Initial indications suggested most Americans tuned into the NBC interview with Trump.

Host Savannah Guthrie questioned the president on his recent coronavirus diagnosis. Asked if he had contracted pneumonia, Trump said he had been told he had "a little problem with my lungs". He also declined to answer if he tested negative for Covid on the day of his recent debate with Biden. In a tense interchange with Guthrie, he declined to denounce QAnon, a far-right conspiracy movement.

In contrast to the combative Trump town hall, Biden's ABC event was a more low-key affair as he answered questions from the (socially distanced) audience and host George Stephanopoulos.

Biden said “the words of a president matters,” noting Trump’s failure to wear a mask has consequences. He also pledged to make the criminal justice system fairer for African-Americans. “If young black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election.” He also said he would reveal his views on expanding the supreme court before the election.

Meanwhile Kamala Harris was forced to suspend in-person campaigning until Sunday after two members of her campaign team tested positive for coronavirus. The decision was made "out of an abundance of caution", the Biden campaign said, using the now well-worn phrase. It was a blow to Harris who had already been sequestered in Washington for much of the week for the Amy Coney Barrett supreme court hearings.

That confirmation hearing concluded on Capitol Hill yesterday – Barrett was not present for the final day. Instead the 22-member senate judiciary committee exchanged recriminations about the process and heard from witnesses who each underscored each party’s perspective on the controversial pick.

The committee will vote next Thursday on her confirmation. A full senate vote is then expected as early as October 26th – just a week before the election.

Quote of the Day

"It's ending . . . it's going to peter out" – Trump on coronavirus during a campaign event in North Carolina yesterday, as the number of cases in the United States passed eight million and experts warned the country may be heading towards a third wave.

On the Campaign Trail

Joe Biden heads to the key swing state of Michigan. He is due to deliver remarks on healthcare, and what Democrats believe is Donald Trump’s threat to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

With Kamala Harris out of commission as she pauses her campaigning for several days, her husband, Doug Emhoff, will be in Omaha, Nebraska. He cancelled a planned appearance with Biden's wife, Jill, that had been scheduled in Minnesota yesterday.

Trump, who spent the night at his Trump Doral resort in Miami, has events in Florida this morning before flying to Georgia for a rally.

A busy weekend of campaigning awaits, with the president due to hold rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday, and Nevada and Arizona on Sunday.

Mr Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump jnr, will be attending a truckers' event in Miami with further events scheduled in Saturday in Florida.

Recommended Reads

Stephen Starr is in Dearborn,  Michigan, home to the largest Middle Eastern community in the US. In this important swing state, the community could make a difference in this year's election.

A roundup from me on the final day of the Amy Coney Barrett hearing in Washington.

I discuss some of the key races to watch around the country with Irish Times foreign editor Chris Dooley on this week's World View podcast.

Ed Luce in the Financial Times on the possible looming constitutional crisis in the United States.