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In Florida, The State That Likes To Swing, Time Is Running Out For Clinton And Trump

14/10/2016 17:24
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BBC Radio 5 live's Anna Foster reports overnight from the States

Florida likes to swing. Think of it as the Glenn Miller of US states, gliding to the left, shimmying to the right, always keeping politicians guessing which way it'll turn until the very last moment. For Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Sunshine State represents opportunity. These are the voters who are undecided, whose politics are fluid, who can be wooed by a smart-sounding candidate or a tempting policy. And every single one of them counts. Back in 2000, George W Bush beat Al Gore to Florida by just 537 votes out of the six million cast. Ultimately, he beat him to the White House too. Everyone here knows, your vote counts for more in Florida, so you need to use it wisely.

To win a swing state you have to target everybody. Regular voters, first-timers, old, young, black and white. Women like Stephanie, Caroline, and Jane - standing on the touchline at their sons' soccer practice in South Tampa. But when talk turns to the election eyes roll and heads shake. "It's crazy", exclaims Stephanie, "but you have to keep watching. I could potentially vote for a Republican but not this time around, not Trump, from all the things we see on television. I happen to think he has a personality disorder, that's not somebody who can run our country". Jane's assessment is even more brutal. "Do I really want someone who's not fit to host a reality show running this country? I know it's bad when my Dad and I are on the same side, he's a die-hard Republican and I can't believe we're speaking the same language for the first time ever".

Such scathing put-downs don't discourage Jeremiah Fortson. He's a Trump canvasser with a pile of registration forms, a steely glint in his eye and a fervent belief that the next president should be a Republican. Each day he's handed a list of houses to visit, all marked out on a smart phone app, and he spends hours knocking, waiting, sometimes disappointed by a firmly closed door, sometimes snatching the chance for a conversation - or a conversion - with a would-be supporter. 'Donald Trump is definitely presidential material", he asserts, "he's going to make America great again for all of us". What would happen, I wonder, if he encounters a Republican who's turned off by Trump? "I had one person who did that and I really wanted to try to persuade him, but he was very adamant when he said what he said and closed the door on us".

A new Commander-in-Chief changes everyone's lives, but some more than others. Milton White, a Marine veteran with 25 years service and two Gulf wars under his webbed belt, explains it starkly. "Whoever is elected is who you end up working for. The people of this nation are in essence saying this is your new boss, now get to work". But when your work is conflict, and the man or woman running the country has ultimate responsibility for your life based on the foreign policy decisions that they make, the decision about which way to vote becomes an even more crucial one. David Miller served in Vietnam. What qualities does a leader need, I asked him? "We had one president who was impeached, we never want that to happen again. But as far as I'm concerned I've seen no integrity from either of these candidates".

There are now mere weeks left until this race is run. But time is running short for Clinton and Trump to make a crucial stop on the Florida election trail. No president in decades has won without stopping by Parkesdale farm market, just outside Tampa, to sample their famous Strawberry Shortcake. Huge framed pictures balanced on slim, tinsel-covered easels show leaders from George Bush Senior to Barack Obama smiling and posing for photos in Plant City. But whose portrait will join them? This small corner of Florida could prove, once again, that the prize for winning here is the biggest one in politics - the keys to the White House.

Anna will be reporting live from the US on BBC Radio 5 live Drive today 4-7pm

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