COCONUT CREEK (Florida) • White House rivals Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump staged duelling rallies in crucial battleground Florida, with the Republican contender zeroing in on the Obamacare health overhaul as a job-killing, wallet- busting "monster".
Mr Trump is trying to capitalise on voter dismay over new government data that shows premiums for health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act will increase by an average of 25 per cent next year.
Early voting began in Florida on Monday, an urgent reminder that candidates have little time left to make their case in the country's third-most populous state, one with a wide mix of constituencies, including numerous retirees, Latinos and Bible Belt whites.
Mr Trump has a slim advantage in Florida currently as critical independent voters narrowly break his way in the must-win battleground state, a Bloomberg Politics poll released yesterday showed.
He has 45 per cent to Mrs Clinton's 43 per cent among likely voters when third-party candidates are included, the poll found.
Determined to ride out the controversies hobbling his campaign, he made a pitch to Florida's elderly voters by assailing a sharp rise in health insurance premiums expected next year under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform.
"It's just blowing up," the 70-year-old real-estate mogul said on Tuesday at a golf course he owns in Doral, Florida, vowing to "repeal and replace" Obamacare if elected.
"You will have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost and it's going to be so easy," he promised a rally in Sanford, Florida.
At a third stop, in Tallahassee, he assailed the "stupid" government officials "who rammed this monster down our throats".
Mrs Clinton in an interview in Miami agreed that "the costs have gone up too much". "So we are going to really tackle that," she said. "We are going to get co-pays and premiums and deductibles down. We are going to tackle prescription drug costs."
The former secretary of state, who turned 69 yesterday, is ahead nationally by 4.7 points, according to RealClearPolitics.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG