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GOP campaign strategy for midterms. Shut the f-ck up about...

What Roe v Wade? Did you see Roe v Wade. No, me neither!

Democrats Eager to Talk About Abortion in Campaign Ads as GOP Shies Away From Issue

Republicans and allies focus on highest inflation in four decades, not unpopular Supreme Court ruling

By John McCormick, WSJ

July 15, 2022 8:00 am ET

Democrats are increasingly talking about abortion in their midterm campaign advertising following the Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, while Republicans are mentioning it rarely following the late-June decision.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of broadcast and national cable data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact shows more than a third of all spots aired by Democrats and their allies in congressional and gubernatorial campaigns from July 1-12 have mentioned abortion.

Republicans are focusing their ads on inflation, which voters have consistently cited as their top concern heading into November’s elections. Less than 3% of all spots run by GOP candidates and their allies during that period included the abortion issue, the analysis showed.

“Midterm elections are fundamentally base elections, where both parties are focused on getting their base out,” said Brian Walsh, a GOP strategist and onetime spokesman for the party’s Senate campaign arm. “Abortion is an issue that emboldens the Democratic base, whereas Republicans are laser focused on economic issues.”

Several polls conducted since the ruling was handed down have found a majority of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision. With midterm voting traditionally much lower than in presidential election years, Democrats hope the issue helps motivate voters, especially women, to cast ballots.

The Democratic ads are sometimes highly personal in nature. A top candidate competing for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in Wisconsin started airing one this week in which his mother, a retired schoolteacher, talks about an abortion she had before he was born.

“Every woman should have the right to make her own decision,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes says in the ad, which is running in the Madison and Milwaukee markets.

The Journal’s analysis relied on searches for abortion-related words in transcripts and labeling done by AdImpact that seeks to categorize spots by issue. For both parties, the words abortion, Roe and reproductive were used, while pro-choice was used for Democratic ads and pro-life and unborn were used for Republican ones.

The higher level of abortion-related mentions in Democratic ads follows an earlier surge on the topic in the party’s advertising after the May 2 leak of a draft of the high court’s opinion that foreshadowed the eventual reversal of a decision that made abortion a constitutional right.

In an effort to establish a baseline for both parties, the analysis included airings going back to roughly a month before the leak. The timing of competitive primaries, which tend to trigger more advertising, was also a variable.

Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Senate nomination race is the contest that has seen the most abortion-related ads since May 3, the day after the draft leaked. Through July 12, almost 7,800 airings there have made mention of the issue.

Almost half of those spots were sponsored by Alex Lasry, the son of a billionaire hedge-fund manager who co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Roughly nine out of 10 of his campaign’s airings since the leak have mentioned the abortion issue.

Mr. Lasry, one of eight candidates on the Aug. 9 Wisconsin Democratic primary ballot, is also the overall top advertiser in his primary race. He and the other Democrats are competing for the right to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who supports the court’s decision and is seeking a third term in a state that had the third-narrowest outcome in the 2020 presidential election, when it backed President Biden, a Democrat.

Mr. Johnson’s broadcast campaign ads since May 3 haven’t mentioned the issue of abortion, but entities opposed to his re-election have criticized him on the topic.

Planned Parenthood, a group that supports abortion rights, ran roughly $1 million of ads critical of his support for the court’s ruling for almost two weeks in late June and early July. The Senate Majority PAC, a super political-action committee aligned with Democrats, has spent more than $264,000 in Wisconsin so far on an abortion-themed attack on Mr. Johnson that is now airing.

Play video: Midterms 2022: Where Republicans and Democrats Stand on the Issues

Control of Congress is up for grabs and candidates are eager to sway voters heading into November. WSJ’s Joshua Jamerson explains how Republicans and Democrats are framing the debate around key issues like the economy, abortion, gun violence, immigration and student loan forgiveness. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

The Wisconsin Senate race is attracting lots of outside attention in part because it is the only seat with a Republican seeking reelection among the five Senate races rated as a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

As the only woman in the Wisconsin primary field, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski has sought to separate herself from her Democratic opponents on the abortion issue.

Ms. Godlewski, who is endorsed by the abortion-rights group Emily’s List, was the first candidate in the race to air an ad on the topic following the leak. She happened to be in Washington at the time and quickly got herself filmed outside the Supreme Court for the spot.

Ken Goldstein, a polling and political analyst who has done academic research on political advertising, said the abortion issue is likely only to help Democrats “at the margins” in a year with high inflation and other headwinds for the party.

“The fundamentals are getting pretty baked into the Republicans’ favor,” he said. “It’s an extra point or a field goal, but that could matter in close races that are within one or two points.”

The top advertiser in broadcast and cable ads for mentions of the abortion topic from May 3 through July 12 was the Democratic Governors Association. Many of its ads were ahead of the June 28 Illinois primary, where the DGA sought to boost Democratic incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s prospects in the general election by promoting the most conservative GOP candidate.

The top single Republican-aligned advertiser mentioning abortion during that same period was American Dream Federal Action, a super PAC heavily funded by Ryan Salame, the co-CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX Digital Markets.

The super PAC says on its website that it is also promoting candidates who “want to protect America’s long term economic and national security.” It has run ads boosting GOP candidates in primaries and is currently airing one in the Phoenix area in support of Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL congressional candidate who has called on his state Legislature to decertify the 2020 presidential election. The spot calls him a “pro-life, faith-driven conservative.”

Chad Day contributed to this article.

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