GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow Roe v. Wade on Friday catapulted the explosive fight over abortion rights to the center of several selective midterm races, turning battles over key governorship contests and coveted senate seats into heated debates over personal freedom and public health.
Devastated Democrats, faced with dizzying political challenges amid high inflation and President Biden’s low approval ratings, hoped the decision would breathe new life into disgruntled voters. They also saw the moment as another chance to retain the moderate suburban voters who helped them win the recent election.
Republicans, for their part, publicly celebrated the ruling as the realization of a decades-long effort, though some strategists — and former President Donald J. Trump — acknowledged personally that the issue posed at least some risk to a party that has enjoyed months of political entertainment. momentum. Many argued that competitive races would ultimately be decided by other matters.
“From the grassroots perspective, there’s a lot of joy,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican who is a former top campaign aide to Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “This is why we fight. And at the same time, this election will be decided on a number of things: Joe Biden’s endorsement rating, inflation, economics, crime, quality of life.”
For years, the prospect of overthrowing Roe v. Wade was an abstract concept to many Americans — a troubling but distant concern for some and a long-term goal rather than an immediate possibility for others. The Supreme Court’s opinion overriding the constitutional right to abortion ended that era of disbelief and opened a new chapter with concrete consequences, in which races for governor, state legislature and attorney general, and even state courts could determine whether millions of Americans have access to the procedure.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” Mr Biden said on Friday. “Personal liberties are on the agenda.”
Both sides agree that the high stakes will sink their respective bases to some extent. But the crucial question remains whether swing voters—particularly independent women from the diverse suburbs, who are currently focused on economic insecurity—will turn their attention to the struggle for access to abortion.
“There are a lot of independent women. I think there are a lot of women who didn’t run in elections and are going to get involved,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview earlier this week, after hosting an emotional roundtable on abortion rights in the United States. a brewery in Grand Rapids. ‘But I’m not assuming. We will have to make sure that we do the work of education, persuasion and activation.”
As of this year, Democratic campaigns and supportive outside groups have spent nearly $18 million on ads on abortion issues, while Republicans and affiliated outside groups have spent nearly $21 million, according to media tracking company AdImpact. Both figures can balloon.
Activists and party strategists, who have spent months preparing to mobilize around this issue, are targeting the governor races in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, three states currently led by Democratic governors, and places where this fall’s results will be directly could affect the future of abortion rights after the decision of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization returned control of abortion protection to states.
Democrats also plan to use the issue to offend the races of other governors, while claiming that Senate and House candidates across the country have also embraced stances on abortion that lie well outside the mainstream.
An early test of energy around this issue will come in August, when Kansans vote on whether or not to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution.
In a fundraising email Friday, Kansas Democrat Governor Laura Kelly stated that “I could be the only Kansas leader standing in the way” of new abortion restrictions. Her likely opponent, the Attorney General, Derek Schmidt, said that: he would support the voting initiative.
Democrats had prepared to try to redirect the expected outburst of shock and anger into electoral action once the advisory was issued, with party committees and state parties discussing national messaging and mobilization plans, and launched a website Friday to guide the organization’s efforts.
Candidates and organizations have set up focus groups and opinion polls to assess the issue; there are extensive fundraising efforts; and the abortion rights groups Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List have said they plan to spend $150 million on the midterm elections. American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic-aligned super PAC, says it has tapped into social media influencers to communicate abortion rights and Republican data on that topic to Americans who may be just casually political.
“We’re going to see, state by state, pre-existing bans come into effect, state lawmakers rush to pass abortion bans,” said Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood who is now president of American Bridge. “It’s a different conversation now because it has become real.”
Despite all the mobilizations, many party strategists don’t expect even Friday’s sweeping decision to fundamentally change voters’ focus on concerns over the cost of living. But some see it as reinforcing their core argument against Republicans: that the party’s right wing is in control, out of step with public opinion, and primarily focused on cultural struggles. Democrats and strategists in the Senate are particularly focused on drawing attention to Republican candidates who are in favor of an almost complete ban on abortion.
“Economic problems will always outweigh abortion for many voters,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic strategist. “But it’s very, very important for Democrats — to win these swing voters — to make this a choice, not a referendum.”
Polls show Americans strongly oppose the complete overthrow of Roe v. Wade — in a Washington Post-ABC poll conducted in late April, 54 percent of Americans thought the Roe decision should be upheld, while 28 percent thought it should be rolled back. But views on abortion vary, depending on a state’s political leanings.
That’s one of the reasons Republicans’ messages on the matter are less uniform. On Friday, as some candidates, lawmakers and the Republican National Committee rushed to celebrate the ruling, others quickly tried to refocus on wallet issues.
Adam Laxalt, the Republican Senate nominee in Nevada — a state with a history of supporting abortion rights — welcomed Friday’s “historic victory for the sanctity of life.” but stressed that access to abortion was already “established law” in Nevada.
“It will not distract voters from unaffordable prices, rising crime or the border crisis,” he said.
When asked for comment, Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, replied in a statement that “the persuasive voters who will determine the outcome of competitive races are deeply concerned about the damage Democrats are doing to their financial markets.” security is inflicted”.
Even Mr. Trump, the former president who has put conservatives on trial, has secretly told people he believes the court’s decision “will be bad for Republicans.” In a public statement on Friday, Mr. Trump called the decision “the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation”.
Opponents of abortion rights are trying to capitalize on the enthusiasm of conservatives.
The anti-abortion movement Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America launched a field program last year, with plans to engage eight million voters in critical states on the battlefield. The group is targeting “the people in the game, who could go in any direction based on this particular issue,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the organization’s president.
“It’s not just a theoretical vote of someone saying they’re pro-life,” she said. “Now is a chance to really do something about it.”
Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, an organization that opposes abortion rights, said the group was planning a summit that would focus on the role of state activism in a post-Roe nation.
Some state officials have “basically said, ‘We don’t really have the ability to change the law because of the Supreme Court decision,'” she said.
“Now,” she continued, “it changes everything.”
That new focus on state laws has already intensified debate in state houses and governor races in politically divided states. In Pennsylvania, the next governor and a Republican-led state house will likely determine access.
“Roe v. Wade has rightly been relegated to the ash heap of history,” said Doug Mastriano, the far-right Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania. Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor, wrote on Twitter on Friday that “without Roe, the only thing stopping them is our next governor’s vetoes.”
In Michigan and Wisconsin, old laws call for an almost complete ban on abortion, and Democratic governors who are reelected have vowed to fight to protect access.
In Michigan, abortion rights advocates are working on a constitutional amendment that protects the right to abortion. Ms. Whitmer also filed a lawsuit asking “the Michigan Supreme Court to resolve immediately” whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion.
During her roundtable this week, Ms. Whitmer spoke to women about whether they thought voters had already grasped the significance of overthrowing Roe v. Wade.
“So many people,” one participant told her, “didn’t realize it was that serious.”