US election 2020: Why Florida could give us an early steer tonight

It's a good job Florida has finally got to election day, as I'm not sure how much more its voters could take. 

A famous bumper sticker here says 'Florida - A Sunshine State of Mind'.

Well, the sun might be shining here in West Palm Beach, but that state of mind is currently racked with anxiety, nerves shredded.

Once again, America's perennial crazy swing state is going down to the wire. The polls might give Joe Biden the edge - but only just.

The key thing to remember tonight is that without Florida, his adopted home state, it's almost impossible for Trump to hold the White House. 

And thrillingly, it's Florida which could give us an early steer.

After the election debacle here of 2000 - the year of the notorious recount and hanging chads, which saw the election result delayed by 37 days - Florida thinks it has got its elections and vote counts nailed. Bitter lessons seem to have been learned.

Polls close across the state at 7pm tonight - 8pm in the northern area known as the Panhandle (check out a map you'll see what I mean).

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Because Florida has already counted its early in-person voting, which finished on Sunday, and will have processed most of its mail-in votes by polling day, it should be down to topping up the totals with Tuesday's in-person voting.

With record numbers having voting early here in person and by mail-in - nearly 9 million - this should - should - be straightforward.

So results could be in within the first couple of hours of our special programme going on air.

Which are the crucial Florida counties to watch?

Pinellas for sure.

It's on the Gulf Coast at the Western end of the infamous I-4 corridor which crosses the midpoint of the state. Along this corridor live Florida's swingiest (you know what I mean) voters. A lot of elderly live in this patch - The Villages in Sumter County, where we filmed last week, is another key county to watch.

Some of them are way less than impressed by the way their president has handled the pandemic.

So - Pinellas. It's long considered a barometer of the state. Last time it was the largest county in the state that Trump managed to flip - but he only nicked it by 48.6% of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 47.5%.  

Pinellas could report as early as 7.15pm, 12.15am UK time.  If there is a clear and big shift to Biden here, Trump could be in big trouble.

If Biden is extending the lead Hillary Clinton took in places like Miami-Dade, Broward and here in Palm Beach County, the same is true.

But it is highly conceivable that President Trump could stem his losses in places like Pinellas, with a surge in voting from Cuban Americans, who by and large love him and his anti-socialist rhetoric.

I'm writing this just a short distance from Mar-a-Lago, the Trumps' Florida home, which he calls his Winter White House. 

Which White House Trump gets to call his first home could all hang on what we find out in Florida tonight.

Exciting isn't it?

See you live from Florida on our bulletins and our special programme tonight...

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