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Morning Report — Can Democrats really win Florida in 2024?

Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.

President Biden and his campaign team vow to try to flip the Sunshine State in November, lobbing a bold boast that challenges recent election history. Former President Obama (with Biden on the ticket in 2012) was the last Democrat to capture Florida.

But the Biden campaign is developing a nimbler strategy, has money to spend, an urgent need to mobilize disaffected voters and an issue — abortion rights — that advisers believe bolsters the Democratic platform and contrasts sharply with former President Trump and what they call his “extremist” policies. According to recent polling, Trump leads Biden in the state, which has 30 Electoral College votes, but what happens in Florida doesn’t just stay put.

Florida is akin to three states in one – the northern Panhandle, the I-4 midsection and Miami, a tropical sprawl that mixes tech and other billionaires with working class immigrants and expats whose sensibilities have one foot in South America. Florida is a state with clusters of progressive college students and academics surrounding large campuses, part-time snowbirds from swing states Michigan and Wisconsin, blue-collar and service workers, and 4.5 million seniors who hug their Social Security and Medicare and make it a point to vote.

As the president and Vice President Harris race to lash Trump to Florida’s court-approved restrictions on reproductive choice, they launched a campaign ad Tuesday reminding people that Trump has bragged that his Supreme Court appointees made it possible to end Roe v. Wade (CBS News).

“Donald Trump doesn’t trust women. I do,” the president says in his campaign ad.

Fast fact: 51 percent of Florida’s population is female.

The ad is not expected to run in the Sunshine State, but it’s part of a $30 million campaign investment aimed at reaching voters in prominent battlegrounds, chiefly Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada.

The Wall Street Journal poll: Trump leads Biden in six of the seven most competitive states this year.

The Biden campaign says Florida’s court-approved six-week abortion ban will effectively block women throughout the Southeast region from legally obtaining abortion services. But Monday’s court ruling also gives voters the final say. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that a restrictive abortion law and potential constitutional ballot battle over abortion rights make Florida “ground zero” for Democrats this year.

“An extreme group of individuals in this state, led by the current governor, are prepared by almost any means to jam their radical right-wing ideology down the throats of the people of this state as part of an effort to try to impose a nationwide abortion ban,” Jeffries told a Democratic leadership gathering in Florida. “But we can stop them. We must stop them, and we will stop them together.”

There are other issues beyond abortion that Biden supporters see as helpful politically, or at least helpful in pointing up some of Trump’s vulnerabilities with voters, The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes. Robust enrollment in ObamaCare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, opposition to book bans in Florida, Nikki Haley’s support while challenging Trump, and even the bipartisan misgivings about Ron DeSantis, who easily won reelection as the state’s Republican governor but then badly trailed the former president throughout the GOP presidential primaries. 

The Hill: Florida’s abortion restrictions could boost former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) with voters in a bid to unseat Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), supporters hope.

Democrats talked up then-Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) when she challenged Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in 2022. Rubio won reelection by more than 16 points. 

👉 Tuesday’s primaries in four states did not alter the trajectory for Biden and Trump toward their respective party nominations, but voters served up some useful clues in Wisconsin, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut. One is that both candidates showed signs of weakness, although it’s Biden who needs to make up more ground with his base, according to the results.


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

▪ Taiwan was rocked Wednesday by the island’s strongest earthquake in 25 years, a magnitude 7.4 tremor that has killed at least nine people as of this morning and injured more than 800.

▪ The administration is pressing Congress to back an $18 billion sale of F-15 jets to Israel, which would be one of the largest arms sales to Israel in years.

▪ Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, which recently went public, is suing its co-founders with accusations of “severe mismanagement.”


LEADING THE DAY

© The Associated Press / Ismael Abu Dayyah | A Tuesday Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers from the international charity World Central Kitchen in Gaza drew sharp international condemnation.

INTERNATIONAL

INTERNATIONAL OUTRAGE IS MOUNTING after a Monday Israeli attack killed six foreign aid workers of the U.S.-based aid group World Central Kitchen (WCK) and their Palestinian driver in Gaza. Staff from Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland and a U.S.-Canadian dual citizen were killed in the strike, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later admitted came at the hands of the Israeli army but said was “unintentional.”

Now, Israel is struggling to contain the growing fallout, drawing condemnation from around the globe and putting more pressure on the country to lower the civilian toll of its campaign to wipe out Hamas. The strike risks further isolating Israel and adds friction with the U.S., its chief ally. The Israeli military on Tuesday said “misidentification” was the reason for the strike, which hit a van marked with multiple WCK logos that was distributing food to civilians. The organization has paused its operations in the besieged Gaza Strip as a result. The White House on Tuesday called the strike “emblematic of a larger problem,” though officials signaled there would be no change in U.S. support for Israel in its war against Hamas as a result.

Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” Biden said in a Tuesday statement. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians. The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

Biden spoke with WCK founder and celebrity chef José Andrés to offer his condolences Tuesday. Andrés said Monday night on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was “heartbroken and grieving” for the members of the organization who were killed.

Monday’s airstrike only increased the questions and criticisms that have dogged the White House for months about whether Biden has lost the ability to influence Netanyahu as he oversees a brutal war with Hamas. The prime example is Rafah, the southern Gaza city where Netanyahu has for weeks threatened to launch a military invasion. But the threats have remained just that — threats — and now, after a virtual meeting between high-ranking U.S. and Israeli officials, it remains to be seen if the White House’s calls for restraint will be heeded.

▪ The Washington Post: How Israeli strikes on the World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza unfolded.

▪ The New York Times: The World Central Kitchen aid workers were described as devoted humanitarians who would do anything they could to help those in need.

▪ The New Yorker: A former State Department official explains the administration’s sharpening public critique of Israel’s war and simultaneous refusal to “impose a single cost or consequence.”

Democrats are fearful that the ongoing war in Gaza is turning into a major political liability — and one that could get worse if the war rages on into the summer. Biden has found himself under increased pressure from Democratic lawmakers over the worsening conditions in Gaza and Israel’s likely invasion of Rafah. Adding to those issues are polling concerns as Americans are increasingly disapproving of Israel’s actions, write The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Al Weaver. This has created a bigger political headache for Democrats amid their push to unite the party behind Biden.

“It’s massive. If this war keeps going on then it will continue to be a major problem,” one House Democrat told The Hill. “The sooner Biden can break from [Netanyahu] in a major way, then the better off he will be politically. It’s not just the progressives who are angry about the US support of the Gaza operation. It’s now broader than that. I fear what the DNC in Chicago could look like.”


WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet for a pro forma session at 9 a.m. Friday.

The Senate will hold a pro forma session Thursday at 4 p.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will speak at 11 a.m. at the White House about the administration’s efforts to lower health care costs.

Vice President Harris will record two radio interviews.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Belgium where he will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at 12:30 p.m. local time in Brussels. The secretary will participate in the afternoon sessions of the North Atlantic Council meetings, then a reception. Blinken will host a separate evening event to mark the 75th anniversary of NATO.

The Treasury secretary is traveling today to Guangzhou, China, for meetings this week.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.


ZOOM IN

MORE IN POLITICS

TRUMP RALLIES: Trump on Tuesday again accused Biden of creating a “border bloodbath” during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., repeating his violent and often dehumanizing rhetoric to describe some migrants entering the country illegally. The former president repeated his false claim that other countries were sending “prisoners, murderers, drug dealers, mental patients and terrorists, the worst they have” to the U.S. Immigration officials, meanwhile, have said that most of the people crossing the border are members of vulnerable families escaping poverty and violence (The Hill and The New York Times).

The former president returned to Wisconsin Tuesday for the first time in nearly two years, re-introducing himself to the battleground state by falsely claiming he won it in the 2020 election (NBC News).

“You know we won this state. We won this state by a lot,” Trump told the crowd at a rally in Green Bay. “It came out that we won this.”


2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ The Biden campaign is wooing supporters of former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley across key states, targeting a potential weak spot for Trump. Analysts say it’s smart, but still tough to persuade large numbers of Haley’s fans to switch parties, noting policy differences with the administration.

▪ Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) writes in a New York Times op-ed that she wants to try to repeal the 1878 Comstock Act because it could be “misused” by Supreme Court justices to try to ban abortion nationwide.

▪ Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is fighting to maintain control over a judicial seat that provides the financial lifeblood to the political machine he oversees in New York City.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s ability to sway 2024 election depends on ballot access: Here’s where he stands.

▪ Trump’s repeated attacks on mail-in voting have made it tougher for Republicans who see a desperate need for the GOP to encourage more ways to cast ballots.

Photo%E2%80%94Business Trends Insurance 092922 Wilfredo Lee

© The Associated Press / Wilfredo Lee | Hurricane Ian’s wreckage in Fort Meyers, Fla., in 2022, was part of the natural disaster trends that have left property owners scrambling to find affordable insurance as companies exit at-risk regions.

BUSINESS & TRENDS

Insurance companies, reacting to climate change and losses related to weather and natural disasters, are changing where Americans can afford to reside as insurers withdraw their coverage from vulnerable regions. It’s a canary-in-the-coal-mine trend, reports The Hill’s Saul Elbein.

Women’s health: Check out The Hill’s reported series about toxic “forever chemicals,” which have been found in a wide range of consumer products — from nonstick pans to period-proof panties. Many of the products in which they have been detected, including waterproof makeup, workout leggings and period products, are primarily marketed toward women.

In health care, veterans are using virtual reality to cope with PTSD. 

▪ The Hill: A majority of Jewish parents of college applicants this year say their child has cut at least one school from their list due to rising antisemitism, according to a new poll from Hillel International. 

▪ The Hill: California, a state known for advancing some of the strictest climate policies in the country, is the nation’s top emitter of a little-known — but very persistent — greenhouse gas, a new study has found.


CONGRESS

Here’s a look at some of options that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is weighing to get a Ukraine aid measure to the House floor this month.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made it clear that his recent Trump endorsement is about duty to party, not an about-face about the presumptive Republican nominee’s character and fitness for office (The Hill).

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced Tuesday he will undergo treatment for cancer after consulting doctors about a persistent cough. The 78-year-old, who has represented in Arizona since 2003, serves as the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee (The Hill).

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was admitted Monday to a hospital in Loveland, Colo., for emergency surgery described as successful to treat an acute blood clot in her leg diagnosed as May-Thurner syndrome (The Hill).


ELSEWHERE

Photo%E2%80%94Admin BidenXi 111523 Doug Mills

© The Associated Press / Doug Mills, The New York Times | President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke by phone Tuesday, last met in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference in California.

ADMINISTRATION

U.S. & CHINA: Biden spoke Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone about issues ranging from China’s support for Russia and the war in Ukraine, the South China sea, as well as artificial intelligence, fentanyl trafficking and climate change, according to the White House. When the two leaders last met in November, they agreed to continue conversations to avert potential misunderstandings (CNN).

Biden reiterated U.S. concerns to Xi about TikTok, including the app’s Chinese owners.

Heading to China on separate trips: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who departs on Thursday, followed soon by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Barron’s). 

REGULATIONS: The administration announced Tuesday it requires two-person crews on freight trains. … The White House missedits own deadline to publish a rule banning menthol cigarettes, leading to a Tuesday lawsuit from anti-smoking groups.

FITNESS: How does Biden get regular exercise? Getting an answer is tough when it comes to the busy 81-year-old’s routine, report The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Hana Trudo. “It may seem like a small thing, but it contributes to this larger narrative that he’s old and inactive,” one Democratic strategist acknowledged.

TAXES: Approximately 50,000 people have used the IRS’s new direct file online filing system, a number well shy of the several hundred thousand the agency anticipated for this tax year (The Hill). The tax filing deadline is April 15.


TRUMP WORLD

TRUMP LASHED OUT again on social media against Judge Juan Merchan Tuesday, calling him “corrupt” while arguing the judge’s expansion of a gag order against him is unfair when others “can talk about” him. Merchan, who is overseeing the former president’s hush money trial, on Monday expanded his gag order to include the judge’s family and court staff (The Hill).

▪ Politico: “It’s clearly strategic”: Why Trump keeps attacking judges’ families.

▪ USA Today: Former Trump White House spokesperson Hope Hicks is expected to testify in the former president’s hush money trial.

▪ The Hill: Trump’s $175 million bond keeps prized properties from being seized — for now.

▪ The Washington Post: Don Hankey, a California billionaire who made a fortune offering high-interest auto loans to customers with poor credit, said providing the $175 million bond to Trump is a good business deal.


OPINION

■ Let people eat, by José Andrés, guest essayist, The New York Times.

■ The agonizing story told by two Israeli airstrikes, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post.


THE CLOSER

Photo%E2%80%94Closer MLK Jr 040368 AP

© The Associated Press / AP photo | The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., seen in Memphis on April 3, 1968, later that evening delivered his famous “mountaintop” speech. He was assassinated a day later at age 39.

And finally … On this day in 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, delivered his extemporaneous, 42-minute “mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn.. Many later suggested that King’s words suggested he knew what awaited him: one day left in a short, impactful life.

NPR (from 2018): An “exhausted” Martin Luther King Jr.’s final 31 hours.

“I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land,” he told the crowd. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will…. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”


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