How to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Abortion?
Whatever your stand on abortion (I tend to side with EU type middle ground solutions, ergo bans after 14-18 weeks, legal to that point), if the GOP loses either house it will be over this issue. Honestly, I much rather this country reach a reasonable compromise like every member of the EU and deal with crime, immigration, bad foreign/war policy, blah blah blah. Do I think the Dems have the right idea on those...sure...haha. It certainly seems to be working. Do I love the GOP...no, they're almost as bad (the key word being "almost").
Abortion-Rights Supporters Rack Up Victories, Putting GOP in Bind for 2024
From red Ohio and Kentucky to purple Virginia and Pennsylvania, Tuesday’s results show issue’s continued potency
By Aaron Zitner and Laura Kusisto, WSJ
Updated Nov. 8, 2023 8:59 am ET
They were disparate elections in different states—for governor, state Senate, a supreme court seat and on a constitutional amendment. But the results of off-year races on Tuesday pointed in one direction: Voters will come to the polls to defend abortion rights.
In the Republican strongholds of Ohio and Kentucky, as well as politically purple Virginia and Pennsylvania, abortion-rights supporters spent millions of dollars to tell voters that GOP lawmakers couldn’t be trusted to set state abortion policy after the Supreme Court last year eliminated a right to the procedure under the U.S. Constitution.
Those efforts worked, giving Democrats hopes that they can harness the issue once again in 2024 to offset voter disenchantment with the economy and President Biden, who is running for re-election with weak job-approval ratings.
“Abortion is an issue that motivates and turns out Democrats, and that advantage for them is not going to fade,” said Tucker Martin, a longtime Republican political strategist in Virginia, where Democrats retained control of the state Senate and, in a substantial victory, gained control of the House.
The abortion-rights side did particularly well in the types of suburban counties that were key in determining the results of the 2016 and 2020 races and will be crucial again in 2024. And some Democrats were quick to point to Tuesday’s results as evidence that the party was in solid shape and shouldn’t fret so much about Biden’s personal unpopularity.
“What if—and just hear me out for a second—the Democratic brand and Joe Biden have policies people actually like? And the way people voted last night is a reflection of both those things?” asked Jim Messina, who managed Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, in a post on X.
The results also suggested that Republicans and antiabortion groups haven’t yet found their footing on the issue, as Democrats have zeroed in on strict bans in some states to portray the other side as extreme. Tuesday’s elections underscore that whether conservatives seek to paint themselves as compromising, push for tougher restrictions or try to avoid talking about abortion altogether, they continue to struggle when the issue is an electoral focal point.
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In campaigning for Republican legislative candidates, Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin had called for a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, rather than the state’s current limit after 26 weeks—an idea that is off the table now that Democrats will control both legislative chambers. He and national antiabortion leaders had hoped Tuesday’s contests would show that Youngkin’s proposal, which they are promoting as a compromise position, would appeal to moderate voters.
In Ohio, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution protecting access to the procedure until the fetus can live outside the womb, generally at about 23 weeks of pregnancy. The decision was a rebuke to Republicans in the state legislature and GOP Gov. Mike DeWine. The governor in 2019 signed a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, which has been blocked in court for most of the past year.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Daniel McCaffery won a state Supreme Court seat, after running ads promising to defend abortion rights and voting rights. His win over Republican Carolyn Carluccio fortifies the existing Democratic majority on a court that decided important cases about voting access before the 2020 election in the nation’s biggest presidential swing state.
In Kentucky, a state that former President Donald Trump won twice by more than 25 percentage points, voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and rejected Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who supports the state’s near-total ban on abortion. Beshear had run one of the sharpest abortion-related ads of the year, featuring a young woman who says she was raped by her stepfather at age 12.
“This is to you, Daniel Cameron,’’ she says to the camera. “To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable.”
Cameron had at times indicated support for adding exceptions for rape and incest to the state’s abortion ban. Trey Grayson, a Republican and former Kentucky secretary of state, said Cameron’s policy shift showed that abortion had become a factor in the election, as did the fact that Beshear highlighted the issue. “In the past, Democrats didn’t talk much about abortion,” he said.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, abortion-rights groups have scored a string of victories in states as wide-ranging as Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin. The issue also helped bolster Democratic fortunes in last year’s midterm elections in gubernatorial races in Arizona and Michigan, where abortion was a central point of division between the candidates, as well as in congressional races.
The victory in Ohio is likely to create new momentum behind efforts to put abortion rights on the ballot in 2024 in states including Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Nebraska. That could help boost turnout by Democratic voters in places that could be key battlegrounds in the presidential election and other races.
The two parties will look for clues in Tuesday’s results for how abortion might affect the 2024 presidential race.
The results from some states suggested that voters in upper-income suburbs outside big cities, who often lean Republican, are eager to support abortion rights.
In Ohio, for example, close to 60% of voters in Delaware County, just outside Columbus, backed the constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights—substantially more than the 53% who backed Trump in 2020.
Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant based in California, said that many of these voters, particularly women, were leaving the GOP.
“The tendency of college-educated, suburban Republican women to vote Democratic is now more likely than less likely,” he said. “Not all of them, but significant numbers. There is a very critical part of the Republican coalition that appears to be leaving permanently on cultural issues.”
Outside Richmond, Va., a Republican senator lost her seat to a Democrat after campaigning in favor of a 15-week abortion ban. Democrats also won a competitive Senate race in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., in which their candidate promised to prevent a rollback of abortion rights.
The challenging terrain of abortion has prompted Trump to leave his intentions unclear. He often highlights the fact that his Supreme Court nominees helped overturn Roe v. Wade, but he hasn’t endorsed a national law banning abortion at some point in pregnancy, as some antiabortion groups have pushed him to do.
Tom Bonier of the Democratic voter data firm TargetSmart said Tuesday’s results showed that abortion could boost Biden’s re-election effort, which has drawn muted enthusiasm from voters. Polls show overwhelmingly that voters are worried about the president’s age and effectiveness.
“What you’re seeing in these limited results is that the issue of abortion has actually grown in saliency. People have had more than a year to live with the Dobbs decision,” Bonier said, referring to the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, “and the lived reality is more stark and more impactful than anyone had anticipated.”
He said election results since the decision showed that abortion rights could motivate those Democratic voters who so far have been unengaged, while also winning over “some number of Trump voters.”
Martin, the Virginia Republican, said that while abortion was a powerful issue, it might not be the most powerful by Election Day next year. “Every election is different in the hierarchy of issues that matter to voters,” he said. “When we get to the presidential election, with the world in its current state, it might be foreign policy. It might be the economy. No one can tell you what the top issue in 2024 will be.”
Write to Aaron Zitner at email@example.com and Laura Kusisto at Laura.Kusisto@wsj.com