NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats showed a new sense of optimism about the political climate of the election year Wednesday after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly backed a measure protect the right to abortion.
At the White House, the president Joe Biden praised the vote in Kansas as a direct result of outrage over the Supreme Court decision in June to repeal the constitutional right of women to obtain a abortion.
Republicans and the high court “have no idea of the power of American women,” Biden said. “Last night in Kansas, they found out.”
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., boasted of the political winds “blowing against the Democrats.”
“Last night in the heartland of America, the people of Kansas sent an unmistakable message to Republican extremists,” he said. “If it’s going to happen in Kansas, it’s going to happen in a lot of states.”
With three months until November choice, optimism may be premature. But it represents a much-needed break for a party that has spent most of the past year reeling from crisis to crisis, including the failed withdrawal from afghanistan Y rising prices by gasoline and other goods. These events have contributed to Biden’s low approval ratingsleaving Democrats without a unifying leader in a position to rally voters before the election, with control of Congress at stake.
Still, the Kansas vote suggests that threats to abortion rights can energize Democrats in a way that few political leaders can. And it comes at a time when the party is gaining momentum on other fronts, including a legislative package to lower prescription drug prices, combat climate change, and raise taxes on corporations.
The challenge for Democrats will be to maintain the energy for several more months and defy the tendencies that normally trip up the ruling party.
In recent history, the party that controls the White House almost always suffers heavy losses in the first midterm elections of a new presidency. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction amid inflation and other economic concerns.
Even with the abortion-related push, many Democratic strategists privately hope to lose the majority in the House and believe the Senate is essentially a coin toss.
The day after the Kansas vote, Democratic strategists on the front lines of key midterm races outlined a complicated political reality on abortion.
Abortion rights supporters went to the polls in Kansas, where abortion was literally on the ballot. By a margin of about 20 percentage points, they rejected a measure that would have changed the state constitution to allow state lawmakers to impose abortion restrictions, or even a ban. Turnout in the early August primary was on par with general election contention for a governor.
But few elections this fall will present such clear-cut bets on abortion rights. Only four states — California, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky — are expected to feature a Kansas-style abortion referendum on the November ballot, according to the pro-Democrat group EMILY’s List.
In most states, Democrats must convince voters that they can only protect abortion access by defeating anti-abortion Republican candidates at the state and federal levels. While that’s true in most cases, it’s much more complicated to run against a candidate than a single-issue ballot measure, according to Democratic pollster Molly Murphy.
“The optimist would say that when voters know abortion is on the ballot, they are motivated to get involved,” Murphy said. “That is the messaging challenge that we are going to face. Will voters believe that the legal right to abortion is at stake here in this country in their vote for Congress, Senate, Governor, State House, all of those things, and will they be as motivated to show up to vote?
“Republicans are going to do everything they can to sidetrack and not get involved in this,” he added, noting the GOP’s heavy focus on inflation, gas prices and immigration.
Indeed, as Democrats celebrated Wednesday, the Republican reaction to the abortion vote was decidedly muted.
The Kansas vote was “a huge disappointment to pro-life Kansans and Americans across the country,” said Mallory Carroll of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
Republican strategist Christine Matthews warned that the Kansas vote could have “an energizing effect for supporters of abortion rights.”
“Success breeds success,” he said. “It will foster the belief that getting involved and getting active can make a difference, and that’s especially important among younger voters and those less inclined to get involved. It’s a momentum shift.”
Democrats have long tried, without much success, to energize their supporters by focusing on abortion. But the Supreme Court’s decision clarified what was at stake like never before. In the absence of a new federal law, the right to abortion now rests with the states, and in 12 Republican-led states, abortion has already been banned or heavily restricted. Many more are expected to follow.
Republican strategists acknowledge that candidates from swing states will have to treat the issue carefully.
In Georgia, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, for example, worried some Washington Republicans by quickly declaring his opposition to abortion rights even in cases of rape, incest, and death of the mother. Such a position, considered extreme in recent years, is common among Republican candidates in 2022.
Republicans in other states have largely tried to avoid clarifying their position.
The campaign arm of the Senate Democrats recently established a website, GOPOnAbortion.com, to highlight the Republican candidates’ outspoken opposition to abortion rights. While Democratic candidates from New York to Washington state already run abortion ads, the issue is expected to play a bigger role in some races than others.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who leads the group dedicated to protecting the Democratic majority in the Senate, predicted that abortion would likely be more important as a political issue in Senate races in Nevada, New Hampshire and Arizona, all states. in which polls suggest strong support for abortion. Rights. Suburban women and younger voters are more likely to be motivated by the issue.
“There’s a lot of anger,” Peters said of the backlash against Roe’s reversal. “There’s an energy that I haven’t seen before.”
The Kansas vote suggests such power could extend far beyond a handful of states.
Polls show that relatively few Americans wanted to see Roe ousted.
More Americans disapprove than approve of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 53% to 30%, according to a Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey July took place about three weeks after sentencing. Just over half of those surveyed said they felt angry or sad about the ruling, the survey found.
In Wisconsin, the leading Democratic Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, noted that the day the Supreme Court struck down Roe was the biggest fundraising day of his entire campaign.
“People are motivated and energetic in ways I’ve never seen before,” he said in an interview. “I can only assume that intensity will increase through November.”
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Chris Megerian in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.
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