The Dems’ momentum in 2022 just changed. GOP overreach on abortion helped fuel it

This comment originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Has the right-wing electoral gamble on abortion failed? With mid-term reviews just under three months away, there is cause for encouragement.

Consider these three developments alone:

The results of a recount in Kansas this week reaffirmed that voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have stripped Sunflower state residents of the constitutional right to abortion, the Kansas Reflector reported. As Axios further reported, voters rejected the Republican-crafted amendment by approximately 165,000 votes, with 922,000 ballots cast. That means even GOP voters opposed it.

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In an upstate New York landmark congressional district, voters in Tuesday’s primary chose a pro-abortion Democrat over an anti-abortion Republican. As the Washington Post reports, the race between Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro was seen as a key first test of the pro-abortion rights message that Democrats have leaned heavily on since the Supreme Court of the United States overthrew Roe v. Wade in June. The district went for former President Donald Trump in 2016. President Joe Biden unseated him in 2020, according to the Post.

In must-see Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, an anti-abortion hardliner who has called abortion a “national disaster” and backs a six-week abortion ban with no exceptions, has remained silent on the question. As the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported this week, a coalition of doctors is urging him to break that silence so Keystone State voters won’t get the wrong idea about his position. The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported this week that women are ahead of men in voter registration. And among those who have registered since the High Court ruling, there are four Democrats for every Republican, the newspaper reported.

People felt helpless after Roe… The Republicans just gave them something to do.

– Mustafa Rashed, of Bellevue Strategies

“People felt helpless after Roe,” Mustafa Rashed, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Bellevue Strategies, told me in July after the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a set of constitutional amendments that include language declaring that there is neither a constitutional right to abortion nor a right to public funding for the procedure in the state’s founding document.

“The Republicans just gave them something to do,” Rashed said.

If anything, the electoral ground has since grown even more favorable, with Politico saying Democratic momentum has grown since Tuesday’s primary round.

I will make it clear that Election Day is a long way off – and anything can and probably will happen before the votes are counted. But there is no doubt that the fight against abortion has energized Democrats. And it has, as New York Magazine’s Intelligencer observed, had a transformational impact on a midterm election in which President Joe Biden’s party was widely expected to take a beating.

But aware of the opportunity presented to them, the Democrats modified their message accordingly. In the weeks following the Supreme Court ruling, Democrats spent nearly eight times as much as Republicans on abortion-related ads in key contests, The New York Times reported. And in “the contests closest to the Senate and governors, Republicans have spent virtually nothing to counter the Democratic offensive,” according to the Times.

“Rarely has an issue been handed on a silver platter to Democrats so clearly,” Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg told The Times. “It took an election that was going to be mostly about inflation and immigration and did it about abortion as well.”

Research shows that abortion access could (and, in fact, did) swing persuasive Republicans into the Democratic column, further bolstering the Democrats’ odds. Swing voters were critical to Democrats’ chances in 2018. Support for abortion access remains strong among black and Latino voters — also critical for the Democratic coalition, as Smart’s Ed Kilgore wrote this week.

Indeed, new polling data from advocacy organizations Mi Familia Vota and UnidosUS shows that 73% of Latinos in Pennsylvania believe abortion should remain legal, regardless of their personal beliefs on the issue. The finding goes against the traditional view that strongly Catholic Latinos oppose abortion access, pollster Gary Segura observed.

As with any mid-term competition, participation will be key.

And right now — and unless something changes — the momentum is swinging in the Democrats’ direction. While it’s entirely possible the Republicans could still prevail, prognosticators are already backtracking on predictions of a so-called “red wave” in November.

That’s the good news. But there is still a lot of work to do.

“If you support the right to choose, it’s a golden opportunity,” Rashed told me in July. And so far, it looks like the Democrats have taken it over.

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