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‘Cruelty and chaos’: Biden hits Trump in Florida over abortion bans

Trump uses courthouse remarks to slam Biden’s Middle East policy

President Joe Biden speaks about abortion and reproductive rights  in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden speaks about abortion and reproductive rights in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden leaned into abortion Tuesday, using a speech in Donald Trump’s new home state of Florida to continue his attempts to place the overturning of Roe v. Wade squarely on his predecessor’s shoulders.

Biden went directly at the presumed Republican presidential nominee almost from the start of his remarks, saying to cheers at a Tampa community college that Trump “should be held accountable” for the “cruelty and chaos” that the end of federal abortion protections ushered in. And he noted his once-and-again general election foe “brags” about orchestrating the law’s termination.

The Democratic president called on supporters to send Trump and other Republicans a message on Election Day: “Don’t mess with the women of America.” Trump has said each state should decide its own abortion access laws, “but he’s wrong,” Biden said Tuesday, adding, “The Supreme Court was wrong.

“This isn’t about state rights, it’s about women’s rights,” Biden said. “Florida is one of the 21 states in America where … you can’t get access you need for care. This adds up to 1 in 3 women throughout the United States of America that have this limitation.”

Biden jetted to Florida amid an uptick in his polling numbers and continued chatter from top campaign aides that he could turn the Sunshine State blue. If so, keeping the hot-button abortion issue at center stage is expected to be a big part of his pitch there.

The Catholic Biden and his team have preferred the terms “reproductive rights,” an apparent attempt to align their messaging with his religious beliefs. But a White House spokesman during the flight to Florida contended to reporters that the president has used the word abortion when speaking about the issue.

Biden did, in fact, use it a handful of times on Tuesday — including when slamming Florida’s law.

“Next week, one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion laws takes effect here in Florida. It’s criminalizing reproductive health care … before women even know whether they’re pregnant. I mean, this is bizarre,” he said. “You can put a doctor in prison if she takes care of a patient. … You know this extreme Florida law is going to impact 4 million — 4 million — women in the state of Florida.”

After the state’s Supreme Court recently allowed a six-week abortion ban to go into effect, most registered voters in Florida told USA Today and Ipsos they would vote to expand abortion access. That question is slated to be on the ballot in November, and team Biden is looking to pounce on voters’ pro-abortion access mood.

Asked Monday by reporters if he needs the abortion issue to win a second term, the president said he needs it to “follow what’s right.” But multiple polls show the issue is very much in his and Democratic congressional candidates’ favor as he and Trump again are their parties’ presumed nominees.

The Biden campaign is trying to create a sharp contrast with Trump, whose position on abortion has constantly shifted over the years. A few weeks ago, Trump reversed his support for a national abortion ban and said that, if elected, he would leave the issue to the states.

Trump’s pronouncement comes as the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party grapples with how to balance the views of the evangelical, anti-abortion part of its base and the fact that voters support abortion access, according to polling.

Over half (57 percent) of registered Florida voters said they would vote to expand abortion access in November, according to the USA Today-Ipsos poll. Notably, 63 percent of independents — perhaps the key voting bloc for Biden’s vision of taking back the former swing state — said they would vote yes on the expected ballot question. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats said they would vote for rights expansion, while 59 percent of registered Republicans said they would vote no.

What’s more, as Biden landed in Tampa on Tuesday, more than half (55 percent) of Floridians said they oppose a national six-week abortion ban, and just 23 percent said they support it, according to the same survey.

‘Pathway to victory’

On a Monday call with reporters, top Biden campaign aides reiterated their stance that they believe Florida is in play — even though most polls still give Trump a healthy lead in his new home state.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s reelection campaign manager, wrote in an April 1 memo that the campaign is “investing in Florida as a pathway to victory,” calling it “a state where President Biden has a compelling story of results, Trump and [GOP Sen.] Rick Scott’s extreme agenda is making Floridians’ lives worse, and the Democratic coalition is growing and energized.”

“[Republicans’] attacks on reproductive freedom will help mobilize and expand the electorate in the state, given the overwhelming majority of Floridians support abortion rights,” Rodriguez added.

A Florida Atlantic University PolCom Lab/Mainstreet Research poll conducted last week found “50 percent of registered voters in Florida expressed support for Trump, while 42 percent favored Biden,” according to a summary of the poll. A November poll by the group had Trump at 49 percent and Biden at 39 percent.

“Despite this very marginal improvement for Biden, it seems that Florida is going to be a safe state for Trump in this election cycle,” Dukhong Kim, FAU associate professor of political science, said in the summary.

The survey also found 49 percent of registered voters support the abortion ballot initiative, which would allow a woman to seek an abortion 24 weeks before fetal viability. That suggests Biden and Democrats have some work to do, since the question must clear the 60 percent mark on Election Day to be adopted.

In his speech, Biden sarcastically noted that Trump had said letting state set restrictions was working “brilliantly.”

“Brilliantly? It’s a six-week ban in Florida. It’s really brilliant,” Biden said.

Biden’s remarks came the day before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging Idaho’s near-total abortion ban. The case questions whether federal law requiring physicians to provide stabilizing care supersedes Idaho’s abortion law.

Meanwhile, Trump was back in a Manhattan courtroom for the second day of witness testimony in a criminal hush money case. A spokesman for his campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Biden’s Florida appearance, but Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement that Biden supported no restrictions on abortion and was “wildly out of touch” with Americans who were fleeing “extremist Democrat policies” to live in “pro-life states like Florida.”

Trump also used morning comments outside the courtroom to attack Biden’s Middle East policy.

“But it all starts with Joe Biden; the signals he puts out are so bad. And I can tell you he’s no friend of Israel, that’s for sure. And he’s no friend of the Arab world,” Trump told reporters, according to a pool report. “He wants to take, like, a middle ground, and oftentimes that doesn’t work, but it’s certainly not working here.

“But what he’s done to Israel has abandoned them. And he’s tried to be as nice as he can to the other side,” the war-averse Trump added. “Call it the Arab world. But that’s not working either because they get him and he’s an incompetent man. A peace will never happen with a guy like this.”

Ariel Cohen contributed to this report.

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