How Roe’s fall shattered Republicans’ midterm dreams | American News

JThis summer, after a tectonic Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v Wade eliminated the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion, Joe Biden predicted that American women would revolt. Republicans, however, saw a “red wave” brewing, fueled by widespread economic discontent.

On Thursday, after Democrats defied historic expectations in the first major election of the post-Roe era, Biden effectively said, “I told you so.”

“Women in America have made their voices heard, man,” the president told a crowd of supporters at the Howard Theater in Washington on Thursday. “You all showed up and beat them.”

The 2022 midterm elections were expected to result in staggering losses for Democrats. The ruling party generally fare poorly, and with Biden’s approval ratings mired in the 1940s, Republicans stood to make significant gains.

This is not how the results turned out. As the vote count continues in several key races, Republicans appear on track to win a much narrower House majority than they had hoped, while Democrats could retain control of the Senate.

As a fuller picture of the results emerges, advocates, Democrats and even some Republicans say one thing is clear: Abortion has proven to be a defining issue. The furor over the loss of federal abortion protections has galvanized women and young people and delivered a series of unexpected victories for Democrats and new protections for reproductive rights.

“You can’t let half the population see their bodily autonomy threatened and not expect them to take action,” said Heidi Sieck, CEO and co-founder of #VoteProChoice. “And that’s what we’ve seen across the board with young people running, women running, newly registered women making up over two-thirds of newly registered voters.”

Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, donning a “My Body My Decision” shirt. Photography: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images

Exit polls conducted for news networks by Edison Research showed that abortion was the top issue for many Americans, especially young people under 30. And about 60% of voters said they were unhappy or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, according to exit polls conducted by AP Votecast.

In every state where an abortion-related measure appeared on the ballot, voters chose to either enshrine protections or reject new limits. And it was a watershed issue in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the future of abortion access was in jeopardy.

In Michigan, voters decisively approved a ballot initiative establishing a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, preventing a 1931 abortion ban from taking effect.

They also carried Democrats to power at all levels of government, re-electing Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel and wresting control of the state legislature from Republicans for the first time in decades. Whitmer beat out Tudor Dixon, a Trump-backed Republican who said she opposes abortion in almost all cases, including when the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

Ahead of the election, Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats, told the Guardian she believed her political fate was tied to the outcome of the state’s abortion proposal. On Tuesday, she held comfortably.

In Pennsylvania, where exit polls showed abortion to be voters’ top concern, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro won a landslide victory. He defeated Doug Mastriano, a far-right conservative and one of his party’s most vocal opponents of abortion rights.

Democrat John Fetterman won the Senate race against Republican Mehmet Oz, after seizing on a remark Oz made during a debate in which he appeared to suggest the decision to have an abortion should be up to the people women, doctors and “local political leaders”.

The problem resonated in the red and blue states. Like Michigan, California and Vermont have endorsed ballot initiatives to protect abortion in their state constitutions. Meanwhile, in deep red Kentucky, voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have explicitly denied constitutional abortion protections, even as they granted Republican Sen. Rand Paul another term. And in Montana, another reliable conservative state, an attempt to impose new restrictions on the procedure has failed.

Women parade with a banner bearing the inscription
Protesters march during the annual Women’s March in support of women’s rights in Washington DC on October 8, 2022. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

David Shor, a Democratic data analyst, told the Guardian’s Politics Weekly America that abortion was “absolutely key” to Democrats’ successes this cycle.

“Until very recently, abortion was a pretty neutral issue for Democrats — that didn’t mean it was bad, but it wasn’t necessarily a voting factor in most of the country,” he said. he declared. But following the Supreme Court ruling, he said abortion had suddenly become “the best issue for Democrats”.

“The extent to which voters care about abortion has also skyrocketed,” he said. “Of the 33 issue areas we track, abortion went from 30th out of 33 most important issues to 12th virtually overnight.”

In the wake of Roe’s fall, Democrats have taken every opportunity to emphasize their support for abortion rights and contrast it with their opponents. They flooded the airwaves with nearly half a billion dollars worth of abortion-related ads.

Voters gave Democrats a big advantage on the issue as debates over the loss of abortion rights raised new questions about miscarriage care, exceptions for rape, incest and mother’s life. Republicans, on the defensive, sought to evade the issue. In several cases, Republican candidates have removed references to abortion from their campaign websites.

But months later, as the campaign season drew to a close, Democrats were guessing the strategy. Many pre-election polls showed voters worried more about inflation and crime than about abortion. These polls caused a fit of angst and finger pointing. Some Democrats have accused the party of focusing too singly on reproductive rights at the expense of delivering a clear economic message.

But abortion advocates say their logic is flawed – that abortion is an economic problem.

“If you’re talking about inflation, if you’re talking about economics, you’re also talking about reproductive freedom,” Sieck said. “We absolutely miss that connection at our peril.”

After Tuesday night, there was little doubt that the stakes had been decisive in key races.

“For everyone who said abortion was a lost issue; for everyone who said abortion is controversial; For everyone who said abortion is a fringe concern and not the kitchen table problem of meat and potatoes that the people of Michigan care about: you’re wrong, and the “yes” votes the prove,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of Naral Pro-Choice. America.

Even some Republicans admitted the issue may have cost them electorally.

“If we lost because of abortion, an issue that wasn’t on the ballot, if we lost because I’m pro-life, because I believe every life has dignity, I’m okay with that,” Matt Birk, the Republican nominee for Minnesota lieutenant governor said in a concession speech.

A sign in support of Proposition 3, a ballot measure codifying abortion rights, in Detroit, Michigan.
A sign in support of Proposition 3, a ballot measure codifying abortion rights, in Detroit, Michigan. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The string of victories for abortion-rights supporters followed an August vote in Kansas, when voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to remove abortion rights from its state’s constitution. The result underscored the political potency of an issue that Democrats had long had on their toes.

On Tuesday, Laura Kelly, the state’s Democratic governor, resisted a Republican challenge, as did Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids. With the pen of veto, Kelly, like Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who also won re-election in a closely watched race, can block any potential legislation that would impose further restrictions on the proceedings.

In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Democrats blocked Republicans from winning supermajorities in their state legislatures, meaning lawmakers won’t have the power to override a Democratic governor’s veto and to adopt new restrictions on abortion.

There were some bright spots for anti-abortion advocates. Conservative justices have been elected to the supreme courts of the states of Ohio and North Carolina, an encouraging sign for anti-abortion supporters who are preparing for a deluge of challenges to new laws restricting the procedure. Although the Democrats were able to retain the U.S. Senate, they failed to win 52 seats, enough to overcome their party’s resistance to eliminating the filibuster and codifying Roe.

And key races have yet to be called in Arizona, where Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake backed a territorial-era abortion ban temporarily halted by a judge.

Nothing that happened in this election cycle came as a surprise to longtime proponents of reproductive rights, but they hope the results will finally convince Democrats that abortion isn’t just a winning political issue. , but a fundamental issue that should be at the heart of their campaign strategy and government programs at the state and federal level.

“Abortion is a winning issue and will continue to be in the upcoming elections,” Timmaraju said on Friday. “That means Democrats must keep reproductive freedom at the top of their political agenda and fight not just to codify Roe but expand access to abortion and birth control.

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