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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 12:11 GMT
All eyes on Florida
News cameras watch the recount
TV news cameras keep a close eye on the Florida recount
In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Florida emerged as a pivotal state for both candidates who fought tooth and nail for its 25 electoral college votes.

The southern state's location and affluence has traditionally made it the most Republican of the US's 10 largest states.

Key facts
Population: 14,399,985 (ranked 4 among states)
Governor: Jeb Bush (R)
Electoral College votes: 25
Most state officials are Republican and the state's governor is Jeb Bush, Republican candidate George W Bush's brother.

But the last decade has seen fluctuations in party support and it was a tough presidential battle in 1992 and 1996.

After just missing out in 1992, Bill Clinton won Florida in 1996 with 48%, largely because of medicare and environmental issues.

Retirement paradise

Once an isolated malaria-ridden swamp, Florida has changed enormously and is becoming more than the sunny retirement home than it used to be.

But it still has more elderly people than any other state except California (2.7 million in 1996).

Voting record
1996: Clinton 48%, Dole 42%
1992: Bush 41%, Clinton 39%, Perot 20%
1988: Bush 61%, Dukakis 39%
Mr Gore's promises of action to control the cost of prescription drugs and to ensure all Americans have access to health care was popular with older voters.

Florida used to be the least populated state in the American South, but now with 14 million people it is the USA's fourth largest state. It is expected to overtake New York and become the third largest by 2025.

This rapid growth is largely being driven by Florida's increasing elderly population and the high birth rate among the state's Hispanic population.

'Capital' of Latin America

Part of the state's growth is due to Miami, seen by some as the economic and commercial capital of Latin America.

Florida's booming economy is increasingly led by the service sector and tourism - the latter generated $41 billion in 1997.

Elian Gonzalez and his father
Elian and Juan Miguel Gonzalez
It is a centre of immigration for many Latin Americans seeking new opportunities.

The Elian Gonzlez affair may have damaged Mr Gore in Florida. The state's large Cuban immigrant population was angry at the action taken by the administration to return the boy to his father in Cuba.

However, Mr Gore may also have gained votes from non-Cubans who feel the community has too strong a role in the state's politics.

Gun law

As a whole the state fiercely guards its freedom against what it sees as interfering government.

For example it was the first major state to pass a law that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Mr Bush's stance against the mandatory registration of gun owners, and his endorsement by the gun lobby, are believed to have played in his favour in Florida.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Henry Handler, lawyer for appealing Florida voters
"They feel that their vote has been taken away from them"

Inauguration:

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PICTURE GALLERIES

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TALKING POINT

State-by-state guide
See also:

09 Nov 00 | Americas
Legal road to White House?
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