The evening of April 29 passed like many others for Ben Rawls, a fire lieutenant in Tuscaloosa: settled in the rocking chair on his porch, amid empty beer cans and mosquito-fighting candles, tweeting to an audience of dozens until he got sleepy.

"Granted I am in Alabama," Rawls, 45, wrote around 11pm, after a major firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden for president, "but most of the firefighters I talk to are voting @realDonaldTrump."

The morning of May 1, some 36 hours later, was less typical.

Rawls showered and took his daughters to school. He ignored his phone, until it yapped

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