President Joe Biden and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy two years ago in Fort Myers. (White House)

President Joe Biden and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy two years ago in Fort Myers. (White House)
President Joe Biden and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy two years ago in Fort Myers. (White House)

President Joe Biden is traveling to Tampa Tuesday as he shows his support for abortion rights — an issue Democratic party leaders believe will help their ticket up and down the ballot in November.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden campaign, shrugged off suggestions that former President Donald Trump “has the state in the bag.”

National Democrats are seizing on abortion restrictions imposed in states such as Florida, where the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week restriction is set to go into effect May 1.

Tyler pointed to a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years guaranteed access to abortions. Trump has credited his Supreme Court appointees for the controversial ruling, which left decisions about abortion up to states and spawned a series of laws in Republican-dominated states, including Florida, restricting access.

Trump “owns” restrictions on women’s reproductive rights now being imposed across the country, Tyler said.

“This campaign’s posture reflects the seriousness with which we’re taking Florida,” Tyler said. “Again, the President is traveling there (Tuesday). We’ve got staff on the ground. You’ve seen our paid investments begin to pop up in the state of Florida. It is one of many pathways that we have to 270 electoral votes, and we’re going to take it very, very seriously tomorrow and throughout the rest of the election.”

Florida Democrats maintain the looming six-week abortion restriction will help counter an ever-widening Republican advantage in registered voters and boost support for a proposed ballot measure aimed at enshrining abortion rights in the state Constitution.

The proposal, which will appear as Amendment 4, seeks to “limit government interference with abortion” and says that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

Recent polling on the ballot proposal indicated that support remains under the 60 percent voter approval required for passage.

A USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted in early April showed that Amendment 4 drew approval from 57 percent of registered voters, with just 6 percent undecided. Results from Emerson College Polling conducted between April 9 and 10 showed 42 percent of registered voters supported the measure and 32 percent were undecided.

A poll conducted last week by Florida Atlantic University Political Communication and Public Opinion Research Lab in collaboration with Mainstreet Research showed that 49 percent of registered voters supported Amendment 4, with 32 percent undecided.

“Since almost one-third of respondents do not know how they would vote if faced with the ballot initiative, this means that it could go either way come November,” Luzmarina Garcia, assistant professor of political science at FAU, said in a release.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has railed against the measure and predicted it will fall short of approval from 60 percent of voters required for passage.

“I can tell you that that amendment is written very deceptively, to try to trick as many people to vote for it as possible,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing event in Hialeah Gardens last week.

Leading opponents of the proposal include the Florida Voters Against Extremism committee, which has received about 90 percent of its campaign contributions from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to the state Division of Elections’ website.

John Stemberger, President of Liberty Counsel Action, said on the podcast “Deeper Dive with Dara Kam” the measure will face a “legitimate” opposition campaign that includes TV and radio advertising.

“We don’t need to raise as much money as the other side,” Stemberger said. “But we will raise millions of dollars and we will fight this and defeat it.”

As of March 31, Florida Voters Against Extremism had raised $30,640, including $25,000 from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference also has provided $45,000 in in-kind contributions, the records showed.

The Floridians Protecting Freedom committee, which is backing the proposal, spent roughly $17.9 million to get the abortion-rights amendment on the November ballot.

The committee received 17,000 separate contributions, with Planned Parenthood branches giving more than 21 percent of the total contributions as of March 31. Other major contributors include American Civil Liberties Union and the Homestead-based Florida Advancement Project.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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