Democrats have a real November abortion advantage
For all the giddiness among many right-wing lawmakers and personalities at the court’s decision to overturn Roe, it was clear from the get-go that this would be bad for Republicans.
With just a little more than two months to go before the 2022 midterm elections, one issue is emerging as a top turnout driver. And if Democrats do the historically unimaginable in November, staving off what was predicted to be an off-year Republican bloodbath, we can likely trace the root cause back to one fateful night in the spring of 2022.
On May 2 at 8:32 p.m. EDT, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that would overturn Roe v. Wade and nearly 50 years of what was considered law of the land.
That moment, followed by the court’s final overturning of Roe in June, changed the political landscape for both parties in a midterm election year that was looking likely to be like any other, in which the party in power is punished at the ballot box.
And there were plenty of reasons for voters to want to punish Democrats — even forgetting all the nonsensical, conspiratorial, own-the-libs reasons animating the MAGA-world crowd.
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Record-high gas and consumer goods prices, inflation, supply-chain stagnation, a looming recession, an immigration crisis at the southern border, a bungled Afghanistan pullout, and several big-ticket legislative losses had President Joe Biden’s approval rating at a measly 35% in January of this year.
Fast-forward to now, when Biden’s approval is at 44% — his highest in a year — and mostly due to rising support among independents.
While he can certainly thank lower gas prices and some other political wins, including passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, for the boost, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and subsequent attempts to effectively ban abortions in numerous states is benefiting Democrats all over the country, and in some cases for the first time.
In Michigan, Democrats are leading in the gubernatorial race, and a new poll finds that abortion is the top issue voters are contemplating.
In Georgia, a recent poll found that more than half of voters do not support the state’s new abortion law banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy, and Democrats there are hoping the issue can bring them over the finish line.
In California, abortion is emerging as a driving issue, as a whopping 81% of voters list it as “very important,” a full quarter higher than the national rate.
In Texas — Texas! — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke’s first ads of the general election cycle focus on his state’s archaic abortion restrictions. One ad features a damning poll showing only 13% of Texas voters said they supported no exceptions in cases of rape.
And for the first time, abortion is among the top five issues of concern to Latino voters, according to a new poll, with more than 70% saying abortion should be legal, regardless of their personal beliefs.
All of this coincides, unsurprisingly, with an improvement in the Democrats’ odds of keeping the Senate. FiveThirtyEight’s predictor now gives them a 64% chance, up from 50% a few weeks ago.
For all the giddiness among many right-wing lawmakers and personalities at the court’s decision to overturn Roe, it was clear from the get-go that this would be bad for Republicans. That’s because, unlike many other hot-button issues, American support for access to legal abortion has remained practically unchanged for decades.
From 1976, when Gallup first started polling abortion, to 2022, a comfortable majority of Americans have agreed abortion should be legal, with some restrictions.
That group was at 54% in 1976 and is now at 50%, 46 years later. In between, it reached as high as 61% and as low as 48%, but always remained the dominant opinion.
In contrast, the number of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances has decreased, from 22% in 1976 to 13% in 2022. That group has remained the minority since 1978.
And the number of Americans who believe abortion should be legal with no restrictions went up, from 21% in 1976 to 35% in 2022.
So, the majority of Americans have not changed their views on abortion, and where they have, they’ve grown more comfortable with it, not less.
The court’s overturning of Roe left Republicans with two choices: support the ruling and risk losing moderates, independents and even some Republican voters; or oppose it and risk losing a minority of American voters who have no other party to support. Republicans chose the former.
Now they’re tied to a very unpopular decision and in some cases are responsible for implementing it in states like Texas and Georgia.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Democrats can beat the odds and keep the Senate and maybe even the House in a year they were supposed to lose both. And if they do, Republicans can yet again blame Donald Trump, and his three Supreme Court appointees.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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