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Biden's campaign manager is optimistic about North Carolina, less optimistic about Florida

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WASHINGTON – The head of President Joe Biden's re-election campaign said she does not view Florida as a swing state in the 2024 election, but is “optimistic” about winning another state that Donald Trump won in the last election – North Carolina.

The Biden team aggressively pushed for Florida to be considered for Biden after the state Supreme Court upheld Florida's strict abortion laws in March and also cleared the way for a referendum guaranteeing Florida voters the right to abortion on the November ballot.

But in an interview with Puck News published Monday, campaign chairwoman Jen O'Malley Dillon said “no” when asked directly whether she considered Florida a swing state.

Florida, which has 30 electoral votes, last voted Democrat in a presidential election in 2012, when President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney by less than one percentage point. The state has swung red in the two elections since then. Trump, the former president, won Florida in 2016 against Hillary Clinton by 48.6% to 47.4% and extended his lead to 3.3 percentage points over Biden in 2020.

In a statement to USA TODAY, the Biden team insisted that the president can win Florida in November, pointing to recent campaign investments in the state – including television ads aired this week – even though the Sunshine State is not a battleground state.

The Biden campaign, which has 28 staffers in Florida after hiring 20 more this month, will have 13 offices across Florida by the end of the week. Biden visited Tampa, Florida, in April to talk about abortion access, and Vice President Kamala Harris gave a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, in May.

“Florida is in the running for President Biden and Democrats across the ballot,” Dan Kanninen, the Biden campaign's swing states director, said in a statement. “The president has a strong story to tell on the issues that matter most to Floridians, which is why our campaign continues to expand our presence and investment in the state.”

More: Is Florida now in play for Biden? 3 takeaways for 2024 from the court's abortion rulings

The most hotly contested states in the 2024 election campaign are six swing states that Biden won in 2020: the so-called “Blue Wall” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.

The Biden team has targeted North Carolina, which Biden lost to Trump by 1.3 percentage points in 2020, as a potential new addition and has invested heavily there. The Trump team, in turn, has talked about flipping two Biden states to expand the map: Virginia and Minnesota.

“We have multiple paths to victory,” O'Malley Dillon told Puck News, pointing to the 270 electoral votes that would secure victory, and later in her interview highlighting the Tar Heel State. “I'm optimistic about North Carolina, and I say that without mincing words, because I was optimistic about Arizona (four years ago), and that's because we looked at it very carefully.”

More: The next Georgia? Biden's campaign targets North Carolina to reshape 2024 electoral map

Biden flipped historically red Arizona to the Democratic column in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Why so optimistic about North Carolina?

North Carolina, which last voted Democratic in 2008 and has 16 electoral votes, is attractive to Biden and the Democrats for several reasons.

Biden's loss to Trump in North Carolina was the closest of any state he has lost. And North Carolina's booming college-educated suburbs around Charlotte and Raleigh's Research Triangle, combined with its sizable black population, create a similar formula that swept Georgia, once a reliably red state, into the race for Democrats.

“We only lost by 1.3 percentage points in 2020 and we didn't play there, that's one thing. And two, of course there's a certain demographic element, but I don't think that's enough,” O'Malley said of North Carolina.

O'Malley Dillon, who was campaign manager during Biden's 2020 candidacy, pointed to “extreme laws” passed in Republican-dominated North Carolina, including new abortion restrictions, and a “beyond extreme candidate for governor,” referring to Mark Robinson, the Republican candidate for governor of North Carolina.

Democrats believe the state's new abortion law, which bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, will bolster their base. And they believe Biden can benefit from the candidacy of Robinson, an impassioned Republican lieutenant governor with a record of controversial statements. Robinson is running against Josh Stein, North Carolina's Democratic attorney general, in the race to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

“When you put all those pieces together, we really see that (North Carolina) is in play,” O'Malley Dillon said.

According to Real Clear Politics' polling average, Trump is currently 5.8 percentage points ahead of Biden in North Carolina. In Florida, Trump is 7.6 percentage points ahead of Biden, according to the polling average.

Reach Joey Garrison at X @joeygarrison.

Anna Harden

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