Election 2020: Dueling realities about COVID-19 at Biden, Trump rallies

The images they present reinforce sharply different views of the danger.

Last Updated: October 29, 2020, 8:24 PM EDT

With five days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, nearly 80 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- an early voting record.

Thursday brought both Trump and Biden to Tampa, Florida, revealing how crucial the swing state is to both campaigns, with the contest overshadowed by coronavirus cases rising there and in every battleground state.

The president's aggressive, defensive strategy comes as polls show him trailing nationally and in battleground states key to his reelection hopes. First lady Melania Trump joined him for the first time. A Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, this evening was postponed due to bad weather. Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa and Nevada.

At his Tampa rally, Biden was expected to again brand the race as a "battle for the soul of the nation" at a drive-in event, after an earlier event in Broward County. Running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris was holding a virtual voter mobilization event with the "Divine Nine" -- historically Black fraternities and sororities-- then an evening virtual rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Oct 29, 2020, 8:24 PM EDT

Biden rally cut short abruptly by pouring rain

In front of a crowd of 285 cars, and in a speech that was prematurely ended by a classic Florida thunderstorm, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a drive-in rally with five days to go until Election Day with a familiar message to get out and vote.

"Look, folks, five days left. Five days, but who's counting, right? But who's counting?" Biden began his speech.

Former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks in the rain during a Drive-In event in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 29, 2020.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Millions of Americans have already voted. Over 75, I'm told, 75 million. And millions more are gonna vote before this is over. And I believe when you use your power, the power of the vote, we literally are going to change the course of this country for generations to come," Biden added.

Biden delivered much of the same stump speech as he did in Broward County, Florida, earlier today, hitting on several of his big ticket campaign pitches, including dealing with COVID-19, his tax policy, the Supreme Court, health care and climate change.

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the crowd in the rain during a drive-in, Get Out the Vote campaign stop in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 29, 2020.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

In a moment of true Florida weather, the sky opened up into sudden downpour, catching Biden and the crowd by surprise, causing the former vice president to wrap up his remarks early to get out of the rain.

The onset of the rain led Biden to end his speech on a slight variation of his line that he cribs from John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon and not “postponing” American greatness.

"Let’s not postpone and get out of the rain! God Bless you all! Thank you!" Biden said as he departed the stage.

Biden’s blue suit was completely soaked as he quickly departed the stage.

Oct 29, 2020, 5:59 PM EDT

At Iowa rally, Pence acknowledges COVID-19 cases are rising

Pence returned to Iowa this afternoon, his second visit this month, and with coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths trending up in the state, he tried to reassure Iowans that "we’ll get through this together" -- taking a different tone on the pandemic from the president's.

"And even as we're seeing cases rising in parts of the country, people of Iowa can be confident that we're going to continue -- we're going to continue to work around the clock to assure that all of our doctors and nurses have all the support they need to give any Iowa family impacted by the coronavirus the level of care we'd want for a member of our family," Pence said. 

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an airport rally, Oct. 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

The White House coronavirus task force, which Pence leads, has placed Iowa in the "red zone" for new cases, advising Iowans to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings, which was not completely adhered to at Pence’s rally held on the tarmac of Des Moines International Airport. More than half of supporters were wearing masks, but there was no social distancing.

The vice president did continue to wear his mask as he walked from Air Force Two to the stage at the event, only removing it to speak, and giving an elbow bump to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa -- facing a competitive race of her own -- who introduced him.

He closed his remarks by harkening back to Biden's warning of a "dark winter" at the last debate if the virus continues to spread, telling Iowans instead, "under President Donald Trump, the best is yet to come.” 

Pence's rally in Des Moines, ahead of another rally this evening in Reno, Nevada, comes just days after at least five people in his inner circle tested positive for COVID-19. The vice president continues to test negative, according to his office. 

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 29, 2020, 5:47 PM EDT

Biden points to diversity in Latino community for scattered polling on his support

Before departing Fort Lauderdale in Broward County for Tampa, Biden made a stop at a voter activation center to greet volunteers and voter, telling them it "feels good" to be back in Florida, his third trip to the Sunshine State this month, as he pitches himself to senior and Latino voters in the state.

When asked by ABC News’ Karen Travers about the recent poll of the Latino community in Florida that showed a range of support, and if he were concerned that his message was not breaking through in the community, Biden pointed to the diversity of voters in the bloc. 

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to people outside a campaign victory center,  Oct. 29, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to people outside a campaign victory center, Oct. 29, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Andrew Harnik/AP

"No, look, the Latino community here is the most diverse Latino community in the country," Biden said. "It's all across the board. It’s Caribbean. It's Mexican. It's Latin American. It’s across the board. And what you got to do is go to where the people live. And every one of these Latino and Hispanic organizations are slightly different."

Biden also took aim at Trump in is answer, slamming the president for his treatment of Latino and Hispanic Americans.

"He's sending Cuban Americans back to the dictatorship. He's sending -- he’s sending Venezuelan-Americans back to the dictatorship. He’s trying to send Haitian-Americans back. This is a guy who's not doing much of anything to be very helpful," Biden said. 

The former vice president also stressed the importance of Florida to his potential victory in the Electoral College, telling reporters if he wins the state, the race is “over.”

-ABC News Molly Nagle

Oct 29, 2020, 5:45 PM EDT

Melania Trump joins Trump at a rally for the first time of the 2020 cycle

First lady Melania Trump joined her husband on the campaign trail for the first time of the 2020 cycle, introducing him to thousands of mostly maskless supporters at an afternoon rally in Tampa.

The first lady, also not modeling a mask, began by saying, "In a time when hate, negativity and fear are the messages the media streams into our homes and the large tech companies are protecting political censorship," her husband's administration is focused on "the health and safety of the American people."

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a campaign rally outside Raymond James Stadium, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa.
Evan Vucci/AP

As coronavirus cases rise in Florida, she said Trump is working "not only destroying the virus and building back the economy" but "on creating ways for people to safely stop isolating and start gathering with friends again on a safe distances." 

However, public health experts say mask wearing and social distancing should continue with greater diligence to avoid a surge of new cases and have noted distribution of a vaccine to the general public is expected to go well into 2021 at the earliest.

The first lady went on to say those not supportive of her husband’s efforts to produce a coronavirus vaccine are not supportive of the American people -- a swipe as some Democrats have questioned whether they’d take a vaccine if Trump alone said it was safe.

"If you are not supporting the safe production of a vaccine, you are not supporting the health and safety of the American people," she said to roaring applause. "There is no room to play politics on this topic in the midst of pandemic.”

“This country deserves a president with proven results, not empty words and promises," she added. "I ask that you join us in continuing to put America first."

The first lady offered her husband a kiss as he then took the stage.

While this is their first joint appearance on the 2020 trail, the first lady also attended the presidential debates and made a solo campaign stop in Pennsylvania Tuesday, arguing in her most political speech to date that Biden promotes a "socialist agenda."

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