Florida Abortion Ruling Could Cost Trump the State in November

Democrats are hoping an abortion ballot measure can help them battle demographic trends in Florida and make the state competitive once again.

AP, File
Presidents Biden and Trump. AP, File

Democrats are gearing up for an attempt to reinstate Florida as a swing state in the wake of a state supreme court ruling that will allow voters there to weigh an abortion question in the November general election.

In 2020, President Trump carried Florida by more than three points, and in 2022 Governor DeSantis won re-election by nearly 20 points.

In 2024, though, Democrats see an opportunity to capitalize on a state supreme court ruling handed down Monday that will allow Florida’s six-week abortion ban to go into effect but also will give voters a chance to decide on whether cannabis should be legalized and whether to protect abortion rights in the state.

In a statement Tuesday, President Biden said that the decision “puts desperately needed medical care even further out of reach for millions of women in Florida and across the South.”

“Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose, including in Florida, where voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard in support of a reproductive freedom ballot initiative this November,” Mr. Biden said.

The Biden campaign has already begun airing an ad as of Tuesday, attacking the former president for his critical role in overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Because for 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated — and I did it. And I’m proud to have done it,” Mr. Trump is shown saying in the ad.

In a memo obtained by NBC News, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, cited the state supreme court ruling in saying that “protecting abortion rights is mobilizing a diverse and growing segment of voters to help buoy Democrats up and down the ballot.”

“This new, extreme abortion ban — one that Donald Trump personally paved the way for — will now amount to a ban for the entire Southeast,” Ms. Chavez Rodriguez said. “Women in need of reproductive care throughout the region now face a choice between putting their lives at risk or traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get care.”

Other chief surrogates for Mr. Biden have weighed in on the issue as well since the ruling came down Monday, like Vice President Harris, who has served as one of the main messengers for the campaign on the topic of abortion.

Ms. Harris connected the issue in Florida back to Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominations, saying, “Trump created this health care crisis.”

“The decision to allow Florida’s abortion ban to remain in effect will harm not just the women of Florida but also millions more women who might have traveled to the state to seek reproductive health services,” Ms. Harris said in a post

Recent data on the issue have suggested that abortion could be an opening for Democrats in the state, with abortion appearing to be a more potent issue there than in some other areas.

A mid-March survey from Redfield and Wilson Strategies and the Telegraph suggests that Mr. Biden trails Mr. Trump 46 percent to 39 percent in the state, with attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. receiving 7 percent support.

In Florida, though, the survey found that abortion was the second most commonly cited top issue for voters after the economy, with about 15 percent of respondents saying it was their top priority.

Abortion is an issue on which 38 percent of respondents said they have more trust in Mr. Biden, while 34 percent said the same for Mr. Trump.

A survey from the University of North Florida also found that 62 percent of respondents in Florida, including 53 percent of Republicans, would vote to protect abortion rights in the state. In Florida, an amendment needs 60 percent support to pass. 

The director of the University of North Florida’s polling outfit, Michael Binder, has some skepticism about the ballot measure’s ability to deliver a boost to Democrats despite the popularity of abortion rights.

The first issue for Democrats is that it’s tough to drive turnout higher than the levels already expected for a presidential election, though he said it might help Democrats prevent the dropoff in turnout that tends to happen as a state becomes less competitive.

“Ballot measures are more likely to drive up turnout, particularly competitive ones in midterm elections and off-year elections,” Mr. Binder says. “There’s not a lot of evidence that  ballot measures drive up turnout.”

The other issue for Democrats is that the state has changed significantly since 2020, and the people who have moved to Florida are not necessarily typically eager to support abortion or Mr. Biden.

“The landscape has changed a lot in four years,” Mr. Binder says. “In 2020, we were plus-two Democrat registration and now we’re around plus-three Republican.”

While some of the people who moved to Florida probably did so because of the state’s increasingly conservative policies, especially around Covid, the bulk of those arriving are still affluent, white Northeasterners looking for a pleasant retirement.

What’s changed is that mid- to late-60s retirees are more Republican-leaning today than they were in decades past. What hasn’t changed is that they are still among the most reliable voting groups.

“They vote — they vote in numbers disproportionately greater than any other demographic group,” Mr. Binder says. “Even if they’re dying, even if there’s fewer of them than there were 30 years ago, that’s a great group to have on your side.”

In a statement on the subject to Newsweek, a senior advisor to Mr. Trump, Brian Hughes, appeared to acknowledge that voters are not aligned with the GOP’s position on abortion, saying, “President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states’ rights because he supports the voters’ right to make decisions for themselves.”

“Where President Trump thinks voters should have the last word, Biden and many Democrats want to allow abortion up until the moment of birth and force taxpayers to pay for it,” Mr. Hughes said.


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