Midterm Elections: Latest Campaign News
In the first major election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the abortion-rights debate has not emerged as a political silver bullet for Democrats, who have largely given up hope that a surge of voter anger over the decision itself will tide them over the hurdles they face in the midterms. exams.
After spending hundreds of millions of campaign dollars on pro-abortion messages — nearly $415 million on ads alone — Democrats found the impact uneven. While support for abortion access drives the party’s most loyal voters, it does not appear to outweigh the economic concerns of key voters.
Strategists and pollsters say voters remain uncertain about the patchwork of state laws that have replaced federal protections and candidates’ positions — one sign that Republicans, caught flat-footed by a victory they’ve worked for decades, could successfully muddied the waters around their positions.
“These laws can be complicated and convoluted,” said Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin’s state treasurer, a Democrat who founded a PAC to support state candidates who support abortion rights and control of the state legislature. “It’s patched all over the country, it’s very confusing.”
Public opinion on this issue has not changed. If anything, voters support Roe more than before it was overturned in a landmark ruling that eliminated the federal right to abortion. Most Americans still support legal abortion, at least in the first trimester. But those views vary by countrywith voters in many conservative places where the procedure is restricted more likely to say abortion should be mostly or completely illegal.
Many Democrats remain optimistic that voters will support abortion rights when the issue is put to a referendum. For months, they had been optimistic about Michigan, where many believed a measure to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights would drive voters to the polls and help re-elect Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
But privately, some Michigan Democrats have begun to worry that voters’ growing focus on the economy could threaten Ms. Whitmer, whose lead in the polls has shrunk in recent weeks, along with the number of ballots.
In bluer states where abortion remains a protected right, issues like gas prices, inflation and crime they have already emerged as stronger motivators. In places like New York, Nevada and New Mexico, where state law protects abortion, Democratic gubernatorial candidates sought to contrast their opponents. Republicans have urged voters to ignore the issue, saying they have no plans to change the current law.
“There is no place in the country where abortion is not on the ballot,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. But she admitted that it does not have the same impact everywhere. “In a state like Connecticut, where there may not be anything that creates contrast, the issues around inflation may have more of an impact because they may not seem as visceral.”
Democrats acknowledge that the issue has gradually faded. Representative Abigail Spanberger, who is seeking re-election in one of the most competitive districts in the country, says her opponent’s views on abortion have given the issue extra attention in her district in central Virginia. She the first commercial of the campaign season she portrayed the attack on her Republican opponent, Yesli Vega, as “too extreme for Virginia,” citing Ms. Vega’s support for the bans.
But as the surprise of the decision has faded, abortion rights have become a constant backdrop to her race — often cited as a reason why voters plan to support her.
“It’s a motivating factor, but there’s no ‘oh my God, can you believe this happened?'” she said. “Because it happened a few months ago.”
Since the court’s decision in June, more than a dozen states have banned abortion from conception, with a few exceptions. But the lawsuits have put many of those bans on hold while litigation continues. Other states have multiple bans, leading to confusion.
The flurry of actions disoriented voters, making it difficult for Democrats to build a sense of urgency.
In Wisconsin, for example, abortion became illegal after Roe was overturned, with the law dating back to 1849. But the Republican running for governor has suggested he would not support a near-total ban. Democratic district attorneys in the state’s two largest counties said they would not enforce the ban, and Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat running for re-election, called for a constitutional amendment to repeal the ban, but it was blocked by the Republican state legislature.
Ms Godlewski says the constituents she speaks to are often “shocked” to learn abortion is illegal in their state.
“They assume we’re like Minnesota or Illinois, where access is still available,” she said.
For Republican voters who might oppose their party on abortion, it’s not so easy for Democrats to turn the issue around. In Tucson, Susan Elliot, a Republican who widely supports abortion rights, plans to vote Republican immediately on the ticket. Her concerns about the economy and inflation outweighed her support for abortion rights.
“The big resignation, inflation and crazy prices is something that hurts me every day,” said Ms Elliot, 54. “And whether abortion is legal or not, or whatever weeks they want to do, makes no difference in my life.”
For Republicans, the political dynamic has also changed. A party that spent decades on the unifying message of overturning Roe has failed to settle, post-Roe, on a central message that divides strategists, party leaders and activists. Anti-abortion groups have tried to rally Senate candidates with a proposal to ban abortion at 15 weeks nationwide, while other candidates balked and tried to avoid the issue altogether.
Republicans spent $11 million on television ads focused on abortion, according to AdImpact, a media monitoring firm.
John Helmberger, who heads the anti-abortion Minnesota Family Council, acknowledged that the top priorities for voters are “increased crime and declining economic prospects,” with “abortion being a distant third.”
But he also sees renewed energy from abortion opponents, who were outraged when a Minnesota judge recently ruled that many of the state’s abortion restrictions were unconstitutional, and wanted the repeal of Roe to advance their cause in their state.
“They know the fight is not over,” he said.
Existing at the intersection of health care, religion, and law, abortion politics typically unfold over decades, not just one campaign cycle. Republicans have spent years working to elect senators and the president to ultimately reshuffle the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe.
Abortion rights are directly on the ballot in several states, where voters will decide on measures to amend the constitution of their states. California, Michigan and Vermont will ask voters whether to affirm the right to abortion in their state constitutions, and Kentucky will ask voters whether to reject it.
Perhaps the biggest test of abortion’s power to galvanize voters is taking place in Michigan.
Opponents of abortion there say the amendment motivated their side. They have poured money into digital and television advertising, mailings and promotions portraying the amendment as an “extreme” provision that would allow abortion throughout pregnancy. If passed, the measure would establish an individual right to “reproductive freedom” and allow the state to regulate the procedure after fetal viability, but not prohibit it under certain conditions.
Activists are watching the outcome of low-profile elections that could have long-term consequences for abortion in various states.
In North Carolina, Republicans need to net five seats in the General Assembly to achieve a supermajority, which could override a Democratic governor’s veto of an abortion bill. The Wisconsin Legislature needs six. In Pennsylvania, if approved by the upcoming Legislature, an initiative to amend the state constitution could soon go to voters for final approval.
In Minnesota, the region’s abortion access island state, Democrats and Republicans are vying for control of about 20 seats to determine party control of the legislature.
Elsewhere, state attorney general races could determine how now-challenged state abortion bans could be enforced. In Arizona, where abortion is banned after 15 weeks, Republican attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh has indicated he will support a near-total abortion ban that dates back to 1864 and has no exceptions for rape or incest. Kris Mayes, a Democrat, said she “will not prosecute any doctor, any pharmacist, any nurse for abortion,” even if there are anti-abortion laws.
Supreme Court justices in some states are elected positions, making race even more significant now that abortion law is determined at the state level. Party control of supreme courts is on sale in Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan.
“Everything is going to be close,” said Ianthe Metzger, director of state advocacy communications for Planned Parenthood. “There’s a lot at stake.”
Still, the extraordinary political landscape has turned theoretical into real policy choices, prompting some voters to rethink their priorities.
In West Michigan, Amanda Stratton, 37, has long considered herself a “pro-life” voter. But this November, Ms. Stratton, a stay-at-home mom, voted Democratic. Five difficult miscarriages had changed her beliefs, she said, and now the discussion was urgent.
“I just thought it was kind of locked in there, and it was something we wouldn’t have to worry about,” Ms. Stratton said, recalling her shock when Roe fell. “I want the people in power who make these decisions to be pro-choice and help restore that here in Michigan and hopefully across the country.”
Kristen Bayrakdarian contributed to the reporting.
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