Inside the battleground that will decide 's fate

America is on edge as the nation goes to the polls, but in downtown St Petersburg yesterday there was extra tension in the humid Florida air.

A roiling mass of flag and placard waving and Biden supporters surrounded the polling station while others manned stalls, handing out car stickers which most people declined.

It's not the best time or place to be advertising which side you're on.

From 100 yards away, two police cars sat watchfully as voters filed in to make their vote and get an 'I voted' sticker.

Officers were there because last week two armed security guards suddenly appeared at the stall, prompting the city's Democratic mayor and his allies to complain of possible voter intimidation.

Campaign signs are posted near the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station while people line up for early voting in Pinellas County ahead of the election in Largo, Florida

Campaign signs are posted near the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station while people line up for early voting in Pinellas County ahead of the election in Largo, Florida

Peering out from under a pink diamante baseball camp as she stands next to a life size cut-out of the great man, Melody Stang, a local estate agent who set up the stall, told me it was all a misunderstanding that was distorted by the liberals.

And she doesn't even want to begin talking about the awful things 'scowling' Biden supporters have shouted at them as they drive past.

'We tell them we love them. We aren't the aggressive ones,' she said.

A block away, some of her confederates were bickering with a Democrat supporter over which of the candidates passing cars had been honking support for.

Fractious encounters such as this are being played out across the US but they are particularly significant in Pinellas County, of which St Petersburg is the most populous part.

[Ital]Everything is significant in Pinellas now, identified by many election number crunchers as the single most important battleground in the country.

With the US finally in the home stretch of a momentous election after four of the most chaotic years in the country's history, millions will head to the polls today[tues] - with a record 95 million having already voted - in what is expected to be the one of the highest ever turn outs.

A Trump campaign volunteer waves a banner outside of the St. Petersburg Supervisors Election Office in St. Petersburg, Florida

A campaign volunteer waves a banner outside of the St. Petersburg Supervisors Election Office in St. Petersburg, Florida

Voters must choose between two drastically different 70-something men with wildly conflicting visions for the US and the world in what for many is by far the most decisive election they will ever face in their life.

And Pinellas County - population 974,996 - is where it might all end for The Donald.

If Pinellas goes Biden blue, so does Florida and then so does America. .

The swing state of all swing states, Florida offers more electoral [college] votes than any state bar California (Democratic) and Texas (Republican), both of which are unlikely to shift. Presidential elections here are always like the weather - stiflingly close.

Florida, which has crowned president after president, delivered victory to in 2016 over by a tiny 1.2 per cent margin. Since 1928, this state has failed to vote for the winner of a presidential election only twice, and Pinellas is regarded as a key bellwether.

It voted twice for Barack Obama, flipped to in 2016 but flipped back again to the Democrats in the 2018 governor's race. Most important, won the county by just over a single percentage point, about 6,000 votes out of half a million that were cast four years ago.

The significance of Pinellas came as news to the majority of voters I spoke to and, away from the polling stations, it hardly smacked of a desperate battleground.

A cardboard cut out of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is seen on the hood of a car before the arrival of former President Barack Obama for his drive in campaign rally in Miami, Florida

A cardboard cut out of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is seen on the hood of a car before the arrival of former President Barack Obama for his drive in campaign rally in Miami, Florida 

Palm-fringed, sun-drenched St Petersburg, located half way up Florida's Gulf Coast, is in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most consecutive days of sunshine (annual average of 361) of anywhere in the world.

It has become hipper and younger in recent years, but it still hasn't quite shaken off its reputation as a sleepy retirement community.

supporters were far more in evidence than Biden fans. Yet in theory, the people of Pinellas - and in Florida generally - have good cause to be unhappy with 's chaotic handling of coronavirus.

The state's high number of elderly are particularly vulnerable to infection, while the working population has been hit hard by the closedown of a tourism and hospitality industry on which they heavily depend. Unemployment has gone through the roof here.

And yet as of today, Biden was only ahead in Florida by two percentage points - not enough say pundits to guarantee him victory. There is, it seems, everything still to play for.

Like many swing counties, Pinellas is geographically split between a pro-Democrat city, St Petersburg, and a Republican suburban sprawl further north, as well as Clearwater, a holiday mecca and HQ of the Church of Scientology. Three

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