Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Florida Is Now in Play

There was very big news out of Florida yesterday, courtesy of the all-Republican-appointed state Supreme Court. Actually, several pieces of big news, but they all point in the same direction: The Democrats' chances of winning in the Sunshine State just improved by a lot.

The Court handed down three decisions, two of them closely related:

  1. By a 6-1 vote, the Court said the new abortion restrictions passed by the state legislature can take effect. The immediate impact is that no abortions will be allowed after 15 weeks, not even in cases of rape or incest. On May 1, that will drop to 6 weeks, and abortion will effectively be illegal throughout the Deep South.

  2. By a 4-3 vote, the Court allowed a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution.

  3. By a 5-2 vote, the Court allowed another ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Both ballot initiatives will appear on the November ballot, and will require 60% support to pass.

We do not know, and really cannot possibly know until there's some substantial polling, if clearing the 60% bar is a real possibility in a pretty red state. It is not inconceivable, however, particularly if there is some crossover voting from, say, Latinas and/or suburban women who are otherwise Republican.

What we do know is that it would be hard to design a setup more amenable to Democratic turnout. Women will presumably show up to the polls in droves to register their opinion on abortion. Young people will turn out to support marijuana legalization AND abortion access. And because 60% is the bar, it will be an all-hands-on-deck sort of election. Nobody who cares about either issue can tell themselves "Ah, I'll stay home. My vote's not needed."

Meanwhile, even if the pro-choice and/or pro-marijuana forces can't get to 60%, there are lots of important races that are determined by a simple majority, or, in the absence of a majority, a plurality. The state's electoral votes. The U.S. Senate race, featuring the never-won-any-election-by-more-than-2% Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). The various House races, which could return a Congress that protects abortion access nationwide. The state legislative races, which could seat a legislature that overturns the 6-week ban.

Yes, there are certainly some anti-choice and/or anti-marijuana folks who will get themselves to the polls. But the zealots were already voting, and non-zealots tend to be less motivated when the status quo is already acceptable and/or when their side only needs to get to 40%. It's nearly inconceivable that yesterday's decisions could drive Republican turnout more than they drive Democratic turnout. And, as a reminder, Donald Trump won the state by 3 points in 2020 and by 1 point in 2016, while Scott won election to the Senate by 0.13% in 2018. It won't take all that much of a Democratic surge to produce very different results in 2024.

We are not the only ones to reach this conclusion. Within hours of the Florida Supremes' decisions being announced, Joe Biden's campaign said it is going to try to flip Florida. That is a very bold decision, given that the Sunshine State is very big and very expensive to campaign in. But given the prizes available (i.e., 30 EVs and a U.S. Senate seat), the Biden campaign's large cash advantage, and assists from two of the Democrats' strongest issues in abortion access and legalized pot, it was obviously an easy call for campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. They are also all-in on North Carolina. If you look at the map above, and imagine Florida and North Carolina flipping, that would put Biden at 268 EVs. So, things are getting very interesting.

And what does Trump think about all of this? Well, as soon as the Court handed down its decisions, reporters contacted the Trump campaign to ask how he plans to vote on the abortion initiative. And the candidate who has a carefully cultivated image as an authentic straight shooter who isn't afraid to say what he thinks responded with a statement: "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." Macho, macho man!

The former president is clearly trying to do his best impression of Switzerland when it comes to abortion, because he knows that any firm position he might take is going to hurt him with some of the voters he desperately needs. It is hard to believe that a politician, even one as weaselly as he is, can make it through the next 6 months without laying his abortion cards on the table. And now that his home state is voting, and he will have to cast a ballot? It just got that much harder. Frankly, the voters have every right to know what his position is, and any journalist who speaks to him between now and November and does NOT ask that question is committing journalistic malpractice. (Z)

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