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Biden's campaign says he can win Florida, after abortion ruling

FILE PHOTO: Combination picture showing Former U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. President Joe Biden

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's reelection campaign team said it believes he can win in Florida this year after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for a Republican-backed law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Republican candidate Donald Trump won Florida in both the 2016 and 2020 elections but Biden's team said it believes that opposition to tight abortion restrictions have put the Southeastern state back in play.

The Democratic president's campaign team outlined its strategy for flipping Florida in a memo released on Monday after the state Supreme Court's ruling.

"Abortion Rights Will Be Front and Center in Florida This Election Cycle," said the memo, referring to the "new, extreme abortion ban - one that Donald Trump personally paved the way for."

Democrats credited the debate over abortion rights with driving supporters to the polls across the nation in 2022, when the party did better than expected in congressional elections.

It is not clear how far the issue will go in helping Biden in Florida, a state of 22 million people, in November's presidential election.

Florida has skewed Republican in recent years. Barack Obama the last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state, in 2012.

A compilation of local opinion polls by 538towin, the election data website, shows former President Trump with a substantial lead in Florida.

At a national level, polls show Biden and Trump in a tight race.

"Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden, especially given Trump’s weak, cash-strapped campaign, and serious vulnerabilities within his coalition," the campaign memo said.

The Trump campaign on Tuesday did not respond to a request for comment on its rivals' assessment.

The Biden team has increasingly linked Trump to the reversal of abortion rights in the U.S.

An ad released on Tuesday features a video clip of Trump boasting about helping to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a woman's constitutional right to abortion, by appointing three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Abortion access is now almost nonexistent in Southern states due to new laws, nearly all of them backed by Republicans."Donald Trump created this healthcare crisis, and he has no plans to stop now," Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday in a statement on the Florida ruling.

Trump said in March he was leaning toward a 15-week national ban on abortion but supports exceptions for rape, incest and saving the life of the mother.

"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," senior adviser Brian Hughes said Tuesday.

POLITICAL POLARIZATION

In addition to allowing the six-week ban to take effect, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday also approved an initiative to let voters decide whether to amend the state's constitution to establish a right to an abortion.

That initiative will be on the Nov. 5 ballot as Florida's voters choose between Biden and Trump in the presidential election.

Florida has a hefty 30 Electoral College votes and for a long time was a highly coveted battleground state.

But Republicans have pulled away from Democrats there in recent years. Trump won Florida in 2020 with 51.2% of the vote compared with Biden's 47.9%. In 2022, Republican Ron DeSantis won the governors race in a landslide, with 59.4% of the vote.

Abortion is not the only issue the Biden-Harris campaign will target in the state, the memo said, citing gun violence, book bans, healthcare, and the Social Security and Medicare healthcare funding programs.

Florida has been at the center of the culture wars that are helping fuel the country's larger political polarization.

Last month, Florida and LGBTQ advocates settled a lawsuit over a state law on classroom instruction that allows teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity while shielding the youngest students from those topics.

In January, a federal judge in Florida ruled that a lawsuit can move forward against a Panhandle school district over its removal of books about race and gender from library shelves.

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday also allowed voters to decide on the fate of recreational marijuana use in the state through another referendum on the November ballot.

The Biden administration has been pushing cannabis reforms, such as seeking the pardon of thousands of people convicted for mere possession of the drug

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)