Joe Biden’s campaign has been on quite the roller coaster ride this week. On Sunday came the release of six swing-state polls conducted by The New York Times and Siena College. There was not a shred of good news for the president in any of them, as Biden was losing to Trump in all but one state.
As usual, the media, along with some political operatives, went in to a full-throttle panic. Somehow they forgot that these were in fact swing states, which by their very nature will continue to fluctuate.
When protecting women’s reproductive health care is the focal point of a campaign, people come out to vote.
But on Tuesday night, the election results changed the political narrative. While Democrats celebrated Gov. Andy Beshear’s re-election in Kentucky, the dominant story was the victory for abortion rights in Ohio and Virginia. Those wins are significant, yet they should come as no surprise after a decisive win for abortion rights in Kansas last year. When protecting women’s reproductive health care is the focal point of a campaign, people come out to vote.
Since Kansas, Democrats have seen record turnout in special elections, most notably the Wisconsin Supreme Court race earlier this year. The winner, Judge Janet Protasiewicz, successfully ran on protecting abortion rights, whereas her opponent was backed by the state’s anti-abortion groups. (By the way, the only state where Biden was ahead in the polls mentioned above, but within the margin of error, was… yup, you guessed it: Wisconsin.)
Now, the question is what should the Biden campaign do with this information? The answer is simple: For the next year, protecting abortion rights must be front and center. And that could mean investing in states like Florida, which had previously been written off as too far out of reach.
If the most recent GOP presidential debate is any indication, Republicans haven’t a clue how to handle the issue. The candidates were all over the place. It was like watching bumper cars colliding into each other and ending up in a total jam that gets untangled by an attendant.
All the while, the likely Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, continues to struggle with the issue. One day he’s writing on his social media account, “I was able to kill Roe v. Wade,” the next he’s saying that the six-week abortion ban that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law was a “terrible mistake.”
Looking to 2024, the Biden campaign needs to get its voters motivated in a very big way. Giving people data points won’t work — people need to feel that their vote will make a difference. In 2020, that was preventing Trump from getting a second term; 2022 was about protecting democracy. In 2024, it’s protecting women’s reproductive rights that will drive people to the polls.
In 2024, protecting abortion rights will not only be good policy, but also good politics. Arizona and Nevada, both swing states, are looking to put an amendment on the ballot to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions. Those efforts are likely to succeed, and voters will decide the fate of those amendments next November.
By contrast, one state has been struggling with its effort to get an abortion amendment on the ballot — Florida.
Now is the time for Democrats and the Biden campaign to spend real money in Florida. If the Democratic National Committee and other national reproductive health care groups can push an amendment to protect women’s reproductive rights on the ballot in Florida, it will drive turnout and put Florida in play for the Biden campaign, in addition to providing women with the health care they deserve.
Now, before you conclude that I recently suffered a blow to the head, there are some facts worth considering. First, Biden lost Florida by only 3 percentage points. Second, while DeSantis was re-elected by a 19-point margin, he won women by only 7 points; and in a post-election survey this spring, DeSantis had a 61% disapproval rating with independent women in his state.
Now is the time for Democrats and the Biden campaign to spend real money in Florida.
Third, and most importantly, an amendment on abortion would increase voter participation, especially among younger voters and women, a trend we have seen since Kansas.
For all of the hype surrounding DeSantis’ 2022 win, it was all about turnout. That year, 900,000 fewer votes were cast on the Democratic line than in 2018. Furthermore, voter turnout in 2022 was just 54%, compared to the 63% turnout in the 2018 race that DeSantis won by less than a single point.
In 2018, voters ages 18 to 29 overwhelmingly voted for the Democrat for governor by more than a 20-point margin. Youth participation was at 32% in 2018, but then in 2022 it dropped a whopping 10 points to 22%. DeSantis won women by only 7 points in 2022, after he lost women by 12 points in 2018.
There will be many more roller coaster weeks between now and Election Day. The nature of swing states is that they can go either way — and so can Florida. It is time the Biden campaign and the national groups that support reproductive freedom get behind the effort to put an abortion amendment on the ballot in 2024. The women of Florida deserve access to safe abortions and health care. Biden’s campaign should have their backs; in return, voters will have his.