How Democrats Will See Abortion Politics After the Kansas Vote

“It was the court’s way for women in this country to go to the ballot box to restore the right to choose,” said President Biden. said with a video Wednesday, as he signed an executive order aimed at helping Americans cross state lines for abortions. “They have no clue about the power of American women.”

In interviews, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, argued that Democrats were “full-blown” in their support for access to abortion, and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, said the Kansas vote offered ” preview the attractions for the Republicans. Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat in a hotly contested district, issued a statement saying that access to abortion “is at the heart of preserving personal liberty, and ensuring that women, not the government, can determine their destiny to decide for themselves.”

Republicans said the midterm campaigns would be defined by Mr. Biden’s disastrous approval ratings and economic worries.

Both Republicans and Democrats caution against conflating the results of an up-or-down ballot question with how Americans will vote in November, when they will be weighing a long list of issues, personalities and their views on Democratic control of Washington.

“Put in candidates and have a much stronger conversation about a lot of other issues, this single issue is not going to drive the whole national story that Democrats are hoping for,” said David Kochel, a veteran of Iowa Republican politics. nearby. Still, Mr. Kochel acknowledged the risks of Republican overreach, with social conservatives pushing for abortion bans with few exceptions that polls show are generally unpopular.

“The base of the GOP is definitely ahead of where the voters want to restrict abortion,” he said. “That’s the main lesson of Kansas.”

Polls have long shown the support of most Americans at least some abortion rights. But abortion opponents are far more likely to let the issue decide their vote, leaving a passionate gap between the two sides of the issue. Democrats were hoping for a Supreme Court decision this summer to abolish the constitutional right to abortion that would change, as Republican-led states rushed to enact new restrictions, and total ban the procedure took hold.

The Kansas vote was the most concrete evidence yet that a wide range of voters – including some Republicans who still supported their party in November – they were ready to push back. Kansans voted down the amendment in Johnson County – home to the moderately populated suburbs outside Kansas City – rejecting the measure with about 70 percent of the vote, a sign of the power of this issue in suburban battlefields across the country. But the amendment was also defeated in more conservative counties, such as Abortion rights support was higher than Mr. Biden’s showing in 2020 almost everywhere.

After months of struggling with their own disengaged if not a decentralized base, Democratic strategists and officials expected the results to be a wake-up call. They argued that abortion rights are a powerful part of the effort to cast Republicans as extremists and turn the 2022 election into a two-party choice, rather than a referendum on Democrats alone.

“The Republicans running for office have been quite open about their support for banning abortion,” said Senator Warren. “It is critical that Democrats make it equally clear that this is a key difference, and Democrats will stand for letting the pregnant person make the decision, not the government.”

A referendum like Kansas is rare this election year, just four other states California, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky are expected to send abortion rights directly to voters in November with measures to amend their constitutions. However, the issue has already emerged as a defining debate in several key races, including in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for governor have cast themselves as bulwarks against widespread restrictions or bans. abortion On Tuesday, Michigan Republicans nominated Tudor Dixona former conservative commentator, for the governor, who opposed abortion in cases of rape and circumcision.

And in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, the far-right Republican nominee for governor, said, “I do not allow for exceptions” when asked if he believes in exceptions for rape, circumcision or the life of the mother. Governors’ contests in states including Wisconsin and Georgia could directly affected abortion rights.

Other tests of the impact of abortion on races are coming sooner. North of New York City, Pat Ryan, a Democrat running in a special House election this month, has made abortion rights the centerpiece of his campaign, casting the race as another measure of the power of the issue this year.

“We have to step up and make sure our core liberties are protected and protected,” said Mr. Ryan, the executive of Ulster County in New York, who has been watching the Kansas results closely.

Kansas referendum attendees continued with that “freedom” message, with advertising which cast the effort as nothing short of a government mandate — anathema to voters who had long distrusted too much interference from Topeka and Washington — and sometimes did not use the word “abortion” at all.

Some of the messages were aimed at moderate, often suburban voters who switched between the parties in recent elections. Strategists in both parties agreed that abortion rights could be significant with those voters, especially women, in the fall. Democrats also pointed to evidence that the issue could also increase voter turnout among their primary voters.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, Democrats registered to vote at a faster rate than Kansas Republicans, according to a memo from Tom Bonier, chief executive of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm. Mr. Bonier said about 70 percent of Kansans who signed up after the court’s decision are women.

“It would be remiss not to continue to focus on this issue for the rest of this election season — and beyond,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist. “What the Democrats should be saying is that your bedroom is on the ballot this November for Americans.”

Within the Democratic Party, there has been a fierce debate since Roe was overturned about how much to talk about abortion rights at a time of rising prices and a rocky economy — and that is likely to increase. There is always the risk, warn longtime strategists, of interfering with the issues that polls show still drive most Americans.

Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said he understood the reluctance from party elders.

“The energy is on the abortion rights side,” he said. “That has not been true for many years so it is difficult for some people who have been through many tough battles and many tough states to recognize that the ground has changed for them. But yes.”

He urged Democrats to ignore polling that showed abortion is not a high-level issue, adding that “voters take their cues from leaders” and that Democrats need to discuss abortion access more. “When your pollster or your strategist says, ‘Take a question on abortion and pivot away from it’ you should probably resist,” he said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this week showed the issue of abortion access has become more prominent among women ages 18 to 49, with a 14-percentage-point jump from February in those who say it will be very important for his vote there. mid-term elections, up to 73 percent.

That’s roughly equal to the share of voters overall who said inflation would be very important this fall — and a sign of how alive abortion is to many women.

Still, Republicans said they would not let their focus veer from the issues they have been hammering for months.

“This fall, voters will look at abortion alongside inflation, education, crime, national security and a sense that no one in Democrat-controlled Washington listens to them or cares,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster. and former senior Trump White. House counsellor.

Michael McAdams, communications director of the Republican National Congress Committee, said that if Democrats focused the fall campaign on abortion, they would be ignoring the economy and record high prices: “the No. 1 issue. 1 in every competitive area.”

One of the most at risk House Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey agreed that “the issue for people is the economy.”

“But there is a relationship here, because voters want leaders to focus on fighting inflation, not banning abortion,” he said. Mr. Malinowski, who said he planned to advertise on abortion rights, said the results in Kansas confirmed to him the importance of abortion and the public’s desire to keep the government out of such personal decisions.

“There is tremendous energy among voters and potential voters this fall to make that point,” he said.

Peter Baker he sent a report from Washington.

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