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Trump defeats Biden in must-win Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — President TrumpDonald TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE won his adopted home state of Florida on Tuesday, defeating former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Rural Americans are the future of the clean energy economy — policymakers must to catch up WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year MORE in the largest of the traditional swing states and preserving a key part of what is perhaps his most likely path to reelection.

The Associated Press called the race for the Republican incumbent at 12:35 a.m. EST. 

With 96 percent of estimated votes reported, Trump led with roughly 51 percent of the vote to Biden’s 48 percent. 

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The president’s 3-point lead in the state is a marked improvement from four years ago, when he beat then-Democrat nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton: Allegations against Cuomo 'raise serious questions,' deserve probe Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden MORE in Florida by 1 point, or a scant 113,000 votes. 

The outcome in Florida is among the most — if not the most — crucial for the president, who had staked his reelection hopes in no small part on re-creating his 2016 win in a state notorious for its unpredictable and closely decided elections. In a sign of the importance he placed on Florida, Trump officially declared residency there last year. 

In the lead-up to Election Day, public polling foreshadowed a tight race in Florida, the third largest state in the country and home to some 14 million registered voters. 

Two surveys released Sunday showed close but divergent outcomes: A poll from The New York Times and Siena College found Biden with a 3-point lead, while an ABC News-Washington Post survey gave Trump a 2-point advantage. In neither poll did a candidate hold a lead outside the margin of error.

Trump focused his campaign in Florida on courting the same white conservative voters who helped hand him a 1-point win there in 2016. He also made efforts to strengthen his support among Latinos, who make up nearly 1 in 5 voters in the state, spending heavily on Spanish-language advertising and outreach. 

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But Biden made gains among college-educated white voters, who have trended away from the Republican Party since 2016, as well as with seniors put off by Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. That coalition, however, was not enough to overtake the president in Florida.

Trump’s win in the state on Tuesday, however, was driven largely by strong support among Cuban voters in Miami-Dade County and lackluster turnout for Biden among Democrats there. 

Biden still carried the heavily Democratic county. But his margin of victory there was far smaller than that of Hillary Clinton four years ago, when she carried Miami-Dade by some 290,000 votes. With 95 percent of the estimated votes reported, Biden led Trump by about 83,000 votes. 

Trump also made gains in Osceola County, a heavily Hispanic county south of Orlando. In 2016, the president won less than 36 percent of the vote there. Returns on Tuesday showed him carrying nearly 43 percent of the vote, while Biden performed 4 points worse than Clinton did in 2016.

There are some bright spots for Biden in Florida. He narrowly leads Trump in Pinellas County, a swing county just west of Tampa. And he currently holds the edge in Seminole County and Duval County, two longtime Republican strongholds that have moved away from the GOP since 2016. 

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But despite his gains in suburban areas in Central and North Florida, he was unable to overcome Trump’s gains in South Florida and in Miami-Dade in particular.

Biden wasn’t the only Democrat whose political fortunes suffered in Miami-Dade on Tuesday. 

Republican Carlos Gimenez ousted first-term Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellTrump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread The Memo: Democrats see warning signs beyond 2020 MORE (D-Fla.) in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar defeated Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaIt's time for a second Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health Biden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Trump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba MORE (D-Fla.) in the state’s 27th District, delivering two devastating blows to Florida Democrats in districts that they captured from Republicans just two years ago.

Updated 1:46 a.m.