Tensions and insults in the battle for Florida lay bare America’s divisions | World news

If you wanted a symbol for Donald Trump’s complete takeover of the Republican party, you could do little better than a nondescript shopping mall on the outskirts of Largo in west Florida.

This is a usually quiet intersection in Florida’s quintessential bellwether county, Pinellas, which has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1980 (bar the disputed 2000 race won by George W Bush).

But eight months ago Cliff Gephart, an enthusiastic Trump supporter and local entrepreneur, transformed a vacant lot – formerly a strip club – into a thriving coffee shop devoted to the president. Business at Conservative Grounds is roaring, despite the pandemic, with hundreds and, they claim, occasionally over a thousand customers, dropping by each day for a cup of coffee, a chat about politics and to purchase from a plethora of Trump themed merchandise. No-one is social distancing or wearing a facemask.


Troubled
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