Welcome to the Villages: A microcosm of Florida's battle between Trump and Biden

Video report by ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham

If your idea of a blissful retirement is a manicured haven far from the madding crowd, soaked in year round sunshine - then The Villages in Florida more than hits the spot.

Home to America's largest retirement community, the over-55s flock here in their tens of thousands for an escape from reality. And play golf. Lots of it.

There are more than 50 courses to choose from, on top of an endless circuit of social activities. You can whizz between them on your golf buggy.

But listen carefully beneath the piped music of its spotless streets, and you'll hear the rumbling of something shifting.

Ruthie is a staunch Republican and Donald Trump supporter.

Because the senior vote, which delivered so spectacularly for Donald Trump in 2016, is starting to look far less certain in 2020.

Across America as whole, largely due to Covid, polls suggest Joe Biden is now beating him in this demographic by as much as 20 points. In Florida, where Trump had a massive lead with seniors in 2016, there's a squeeze on his vote too.

Make no mistake - The Villages are solidly Republican.

  • Trump supporter Ruthie explains why she loves the president

When the president arrived nearby for a rally last week, the turnout was - as he would put it - yuge.

Ruthie Argo Mazzei, who's 74, wouldn't have missed it for the world. I met her afterwards at her home and she took me for a buggy ride round the neighbourhood.

It's no exaggeration to say President Trump has long won her over - head and heart. With a tear in her eye, she tells me she loves him.

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“He’s done so much for the country – for the economy, for the women, for the blacks, for the Latinos. He’s done so much. It’s just such a shame that everything he does, they criticise. The Democrats don’t want to give him credit for anything.”

Ruthie proudly points out the house of the one Democrat who lives on her street, and is keen to tell me they get on well.

Lots of golf is played in Florida's retirement area. Credit: ITV News

But elsewhere in The Villages, it's not been so cordial.

Democrats have been gaining in confidence and number and getting out on the streets with their Biden placards.

In an incident which shattered the calm here - a horrible clash between parties was caught on camera and quickly went viral.

So toxic has the debate turned, that the Democrats Campaign office, tucked in the back of a parking lot - has seen an uptick in trade - with converts arriving at the door:.

Chris Stanley, who runs it, tells me you can always spot them.

“Almost every day we’ll have at least one Republican come through the door. They proclaim - 'I’m a Republican and I’m staying a Republican and how can I help you get rid of that guy in the White House?'" he said.

"Everybody has their own breaking point. For some it was his mismanagement of the Covid virus and then for others it’s been the incessant tweeting, the hateful rhetoric, the lying. But for most of them it’s the poor policies.”

On the dock of the lake, I meet one of those who's switched.

Stephen Staruch has been a lifelong Republican.

But he tells me he knew he'd made a mistake as soon as he voted for Donald Trump, and after the way he's dealt with the pandemic, enough is enough.

“I’ll admit my mistake of 2016 and say that if I had any vote that I’ve done in my lifetime that I regretted, the one I did 2016 for Trump is the one. I’ve been a lifetime Republican and this will be the first time in a Presidential election I’ve voted for Democrat.”

If enough people like Stephen switch in the Villages, in this must-win state for the President, then it's conceivable this place could deny him four more years.

In America's historic battle between red and blue - every grey vote counts.

Watch Trump vs Biden: The Results on Tuesday 3rd November from 11pm on ITV