How Democrats See Abortion Coverage After Kansas Vote

“The court practically dared the women of this country to go to the polls to restore the right to vote,” President Biden said. the video says Wednesday, when he signed an executive order aimed at helping Americans cross state lines for abortions. “They have no idea about the power of American women.”

In an interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, called on Democrats to “fully support” abortion access, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the House Democratic campaign, said the Kansas vote was a “preview.” future attractions” to Republicans. Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat in a hotly contested district, issued a statement saying abortion access “is paramount to preserving personal freedom and ensuring that women, not the government, can decide their own destiny.”

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

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

“With the addition of the candidates and a much more serious conversation about a number of other issues, this single issue is not going to create the entire national narrative that Democrats are hoping for,” said David Kochel, a veteran of Republican politics in nearby Iowa. Still, Mr. Kochel acknowledged the risk of Republican overreach as social conservatives seek to outlaw abortion, with a few exceptions that polls typically show are unpopular.

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

Polls have long shown most Americans support at least some abortion rights. But abortion opponents were far more likely to let the issue dictate their vote, creating a passion gap between the two sides of the issue. Democrats had hoped for a Supreme Court decision this summer abolishes the constitutional right to abortion would change that as Republican-led states rushed to impose new restrictions and direct prohibitions due to the procedure established.

The Kansas vote was the most concrete evidence that many voters, including some Republicans, who still support their party in November—were ready to push back. Kansans voted on the amendment in Johnson County, home to affluent, moderate suburbs outside Kansas City, and rejected the measure by about 70 percent, a sign of the power of the issue. suburban battlegrounds across the country. But the amendment was also defeated in more conservative counties like support for abortion rights surpassed Mr. Biden In 2020, almost everywhere.

After a few months of fighting with his disengaged if not demoralized base, Democratic strategists and officials hoped the results signaled some kind of awakening. They said abortion rights are a powerful part of efforts to turn Republicans into extremists and 2022. make the election a two-party choice, not a Democrat-only referendum.

“The Republicans who are running for office are pretty outspoken in their support of abortion bans,” said Senator Warren. “It’s very important that Democrats also make it clear that this is a fundamental difference, and that Democrats will advocate for the decision to be made by the pregnant woman, not the government.”

A Kansas-style referendum will be a rarity this election year, only with four more states California, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky are all expected to put abortion rights directly up to voters in November by amending their constitutions. But the issue has already become a defining issue in some key races, including in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Democratic gubernatorial candidates have lobbied against broad restrictions or bans on abortion. On Tuesday, Michigan Republicans announced the nomination Tudor Dixona former conservative commentator for the governor who opposed abortion in cases of rape and incest.

And in Pennsylvania, far-right Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano said:I don’t make exceptions,” when asked if he believed in exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. There could also be gubernatorial contests in states like Wisconsin and Georgia directly affected abortion rights.

Other tests of abortion’s effects on race will come sooner. Up north from New York, Pat Ryan, a Democrat running for the House this month, has made abortion rights a central focus of his campaign, making the race another measure of the power of the issue this year.

“We have to step up and make sure that our basic liberties are protected and protected,” said Mr. Ryan, the Ulster County executive in New York, who has been closely following the Kansas outcome.

Opponents of the Kansas referendum leaned on this message of “freedom,” with advertising which has turned the effort into nothing more than a government mandate, fueling anger and sometimes not using the word “abortion” at all for voters who have long distrusted the excessive intervention of Topeka and Washington.

Some of the messages were aimed at moderate, often suburban, voters who switched parties during the last election. Strategists from both parties agreed that abortion rights could be important to these voters, especially women, in the fall. Democrats also pointed to evidence that the issue could also boost turnout among their base voters.

Democrats registered to vote at a faster rate than Republicans in Kansas after the Supreme Court decision, according to a memo from Tom Bonier, head of Democratic data firm TargetSmart. Mr. Bonier said his analysis showed that about 70 percent of Kansans who signed up after the ruling were women.

“It’s bad practice not to focus on this issue until the end of this election season — and beyond,” said Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl. “Democrats should tell Americans that your bedroom will be on the ballot this November.”

There has been a fierce debate in the Democratic Party since Roe was overturned over how much to talk about abortion rights in a time of rising prices and a rocky economy — and it’s likely to intensify. Some longtime strategists caution that there is always a risk of distracting attention from the issues that polls show still motivate most Americans.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said he understood the hesitation of party supporters.

“The energy is on the side of abortion rights,” he said. “For decades that hasn’t been true, so it’s hard for some people who’ve been through a lot of hard fights and a lot of hard times to admit that the ground has turned beneath them.” But you have.”

He urged Democrats to ignore polls that show abortion is not a top-level issue, adding that “voters are taking their cues from leaders” and that Democrats need to have more debate about abortion. “When your pollster or your strategist says, ‘Consider the abortion issue and back off,’ you should probably push back,” he said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this week found that abortion options have become more important to women between the ages of 18 and 49, with a 14 percentage point jump from February in those who say it will be very important to their vote. mid-term elections, up to 73 percent.

That’s about the same as the overall share of voters who said inflation would be very important this fall, a sign of how many women are energized by abortion.

Still, Republicans said they won’t let their attention turn away from issues that have worried them for months.

“Voters will be weighing abortion this fall along with inflation, education, crime, national security and the feeling that no one is listening or caring in a Democratic-controlled Washington,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster and former top Trump White official. Home advisor.

Michael McAdams, director of communications for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that if Democrats focus their fall campaign on abortion, they will ignore the economy and record prices: “Issue No. 1 in every competitive district.”

One of the most endangered House Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey agreed that “the economy is the people’s most important issue.”

“But there’s a connection here because voters want leaders to focus on fighting inflation rather than banning abortion,” he said. Mr. Malinowski, who said he plans to campaign on abortion rights, said the results in Kansas reaffirmed to him the importance of abortion and the public’s desire to keep the government from making such personal decisions.

“There’s tremendous energy for voters and potential voters this fall to make a statement,” he said.

Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

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