“In New Mexico, I think we’re going to answer it [to with] a clear call to action from women and men, voters across this spectrum, who could have been – in the medium term – more lethargic,” said New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, former President of the Democratic Governors Association who is up for re-election this year
Many are quick to note that the long- or even medium-term political effects of the Supreme Court’s decision remain unclear. And few Democrats are willing to say the Supreme Court’s decision alone could reverse their grim political fortunes in some of the nation’s most contested elections.
But a number of Democrats believe returning abortion policy to states could limit an expanding battleground, which has only become more Republican-friendly as the midterm elections draw nearer.
“For a long time, many voters did not believe there was a threat to the status quo – legal access to abortion,” said DGA policy director Marshall Cohen. “Even in bluer states where there are protections in state law, the extremism of Republican candidates is particularly off-putting to a wide range of voters, not only Democrats, but also independents and moderate Republicans. . .”
Democrats took immediate offense after Friday’s decision, widely labeling Republican candidates as hardliners who do not conform to popular opinion. They raised the specter of a nationwide ban — which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called “possible” — as the reason Democratic-leaning voters can’t risk leaving the fold now, even in reliable blue states that have already codified abortion protections into law.
Even before Friday’s decision, Democrats were using the impending Supreme Court opinion to try to create some distance between themselves and their Republican opponents.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who was last reelected in 2016 by 18 points, aired a TV ad last week targeting her top Republican challenger. “How risky is it to vote for Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked Senate candidate, Tiffany Smiley?” Everything,” the ad’s narrator intones, saying it would “jeopardize women’s reproductive health care.”
The same is true in Colorado, where Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet could both face serious Republican opponents in November.
“We cannot let the court have the last word. If they do, our daughters will have less rights than their mothers and grandmothers,” Bennet told POLITICO. “We must protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, no matter where she lives. We need to elect pro-choice Democrats in November who will protect women’s right to choose. »
The urgency of the moment leaves a particularly bitter taste in the mouths of some Colorado Democrats. In 2014, then senator. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) Has relentlessly focused his re-election campaign against Republican challenger Cory Gardner on reproductive rights — so much so that a debate moderator called him “Mark Uterus” on stage.
Udall ultimately lost to Gardner, who voted to affirm Trump’s three Supreme Court nominations, who in turn created a 5-4 majority to overturn Roe vs. Wade Friday. Democrats are confident that this year, the Udall-style warnings will not go unheeded.
“Well, I think they’re actually very different years. And I think when the perspective reverses Roe vs. Wade is out there, I think it’s easy for people to think, ‘Oh, that’s never gonna happen,'” said Morgan Carroll, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. “But I think for a large part of the electorate, the very act of overthrowing Roe vs. Wade is a very serious and alarming red flag.
Laura Chapin, a Colorado-based Democratic strategist, pointed to the fact that voters in the state rejected a 2020 ban on most abortions at 22 weeks or older. The vote against the ballot measure edged out Biden, even carrying seven Trump counties.
“It tells us that we know that voters in the state are strongly in favor of abortion rights and that it crosses party lines,” said Chapin, who is also a consultant for an advocacy group. abortion. Colorado abortion.
Colorado was also the first state in the country to relax abortion laws, in 1967.
Republicans aren’t buying this, even on the fringe battlegrounds, Friday’s Supreme Court ruling will suddenly clear the way for Democrats to claw back ahead of the midterm elections. They argue that while this may be motivating for some grassroots Democratic voters, the economy will still be the deciding issue in November.
“The 2022 midterm elections won’t be decided on abortion, no matter how hard Democrats try to convince themselves of it,” Joanna Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association, said in a statement. a statement. . “Confident voters who will determine the outcome of the competitive gubernatorial races are deeply concerned about the damage done to their financial security and personal safety by the failed policies of Joe Biden and Democratic governors on the economy, crime and the border. .”
And while many Republican candidates support restrictive abortion policies, even in blue-leaning states, that’s not universally true. If Colorado Republican Joe O’Dea wins the Senate primary, it will blur typical abortion politics in that race: O’Dea, a businessman, supported abortion rights in the early months of pregnancy.
Some Republican strategists also think they can flip the script on Democrats, portraying them as extreme in opposing limits on abortion rights.
But Democratic strategists plan to focus on the issue, both on the outer edges of the battlefields and in the most competitive states. And they hope it can help rebuild some of the coalitions that were key to Biden’s 2020 victory and their midterm blue wave two years prior — especially in states in recent history. easy wins for them.
“The hope is that yes, it stops the gradual slide, especially in the suburbs or among young white people, towards Republicans,” said Roshni Nedungadi, a pollster at HIT Strategies, who has worked with advocacy groups. to abortion. “Young people really believe in the right to have access to abortion, and did not believe that stag should have been reversed. These feelings are stronger in blue states.
And Democrats also say they need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time — while addressing voter concerns about other major issues, like inflation or the economy in general, while also focusing on a broader reproductive health and women’s health agenda that does not just revolve around abortion.
Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico, approvingly cited the Clintonian mantra of “safe, legal, and rare” abortions. She listed a broader reproductive rights agenda — like access to contraception and sex education — and a stronger social safety net for families as issues Democrats must also discuss this year.
And Lujan Grisham also acknowledged that the economic factors that made the political environment so favorable to Republicans in the first place could be difficult to overcome, even in states that have recently turned to Democrats.
“I would like to have a crystal ball and tell you that this is definitely now the political issue, and it will trump the economic issues,” she said. “Hard to say.”
But the party hopes that, at a minimum, it could help reset things in bluer states. “If the Republicans try to make gains in Democratic territory,” said Jared Léopold, former director of communications at the DGA, “it stag the power is like an electric fence, preventing them from advancing.