October 7, 2022

The size and scope of the result was a shock to even the most optimistic Democrats. Not only did voters reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would have opened the door to strict abortion laws in the Republican state, they did so in huge numbers, dwarfing turnout in the most recent primary and signaling that the issue may motivate even Republican voters in a state former President Donald Trump won by 15 points in 2020.
The political impact of what happened in Kansas will be felt most immediately in November’s midterm elections — particularly in races for governor and attorney general after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, throwing the abortion issue up to the states. The June ruling led to bans on the procedure in several states, while opening the door to more restrictions in others. At least four other states will vote on abortion-related ballot measures this November, but Democratic strategists are looking to the Kansas outcome to extrapolate lessons for states where abortion will not be on the ballot.

“As the first state to vote on abortion rights since the fall of Roe v. Wade, Kansas is a model for a path toward restoring reproductive rights across the country through direct democracy,” said Alexis McGill Johnson , president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We know Kansas won’t be our last battle or our last victory.”

Democratic and Republican operatives acknowledged Wednesday that the outcome in Kansas, though limited to one state, could change how each party approaches the midterm elections. Democrats, buoyed by the polls and the Kansas result, will likely try to make abortion a top issue in key races, hoping to tie their Republican opponents to support for stricter abortion laws.

Republicans, too, will continue to be cautious on the issue, largely ignoring their party’s longstanding desire to tighten abortion laws across the country and instead hoping to keep the focus on the economy.

“I think our Republican candidates will continue to focus on the issues that are most important to voters, and every poll says that increases costs and increases the economy,” said one Republican who works on House races.

A GOP operative working on the Senate races added: “The midterm elections are not going to happen in a vacuum, and there are other issues that voters are considering when they go to the polls in the fall. vote against an issue’.

Democrats were more optimistic that the Kansas result was a positive sign for the party’s midterm outlook amid low approval ratings for President Joe Biden and rising inflation and other economic concerns.

“We already knew that a majority of Americans support abortion rights, but last night’s results in Kansas showed us that it’s also a driving factor for voters,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Democrat and managing director at the progressive consulting firm Bully Pulpit Interactive. . “We will likely see more Democratic candidates learn from Kansas and build on the threat and urgency of abortion bans across the country and start communicating that directly to voters.”

Results across the country on Tuesday, however, also highlighted a complicated relationship between voters and abortion. While Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected the abortion amendment, Republican primary voters in places like Arizona, Michigan and Missouri also nominated candidates for governor, U.S. senator and other top positions who support tighter restrictions on abortion. abortions.

Republicans are looking for ground on the abortion issue

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, many Republicans have been trying to walk a fine line on abortion.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is one of the clearest examples. While running in the Commonwealth GOP primary, Mastriano called abortion his “No. 1 issue.” Since winning the nomination, he has been less emphatic, instead arguing that it is “the people of Pennsylvania” who will decide the future of abortion in the state. In a statement after the June ruling, Mastriano — a state senator who has supported and strict anti-abortion legislation — said Republicans “must not take our focus away from the core issues facing Pennsylvania families.”

And Mastriano is not alone, as Republicans across the country try to keep the focus on high inflation and voters’ sense of economic discomfort instead of more controversial issues like abortion.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a memo after leaking a draft opinion that predicted the Supreme Court’s final decision, calling on the candidates to “be compassionate, consensus-builders on abortion” and appear willing to “listen” to people. who disagree with them on the matter.

A Republican operative who works on Senate campaigns said that while the Kansas result “reflects that there is a lot more nuance to abortion politics than most people realize,” the NRSC advises candidates “to decide how much they want to talk about the issue,” but to know that “voters want to succeed on the issues that affect their lives every day,” like the economy.

Some Republicans also believe that focusing on abortion would allow Republicans to insult Democrats who oppose limits on the process.

“You have to push Democrats to no end,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist who was a top spokesman for the Republican National Campaign Committee in 2018, noting his party’s efforts to attack Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman for he said “no” when asked if there are “any limits on abortion that you would consider appropriate?”

Polls show the Roe decision is generally unpopular

Polls consistently show that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is generally unpopular and that a majority of Americans support protecting abortion rights. A CNN poll published in late July found that nearly two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the high court’s decision, including 55 percent of self-identified moderate or liberal Republicans.
CNN poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of overturning Roe v. Wade, see negative implications for nation ahead

But Tuesday’s vote was the first real test of that support in an era without the protections of Roe, and the result shows not only the accuracy of recent polls but also how voters — even in a state with deep red like Kansas — they’re excited about the issue, giving Democrats an opening.

“This is further evidence of what poll after poll has told us: Americans support abortion rights. They believe we should be able to make our own health care decisions, and they will vote accordingly, even in the face of misleading campaigns,” Christina said. Reynolds, a top executive at EMILY’s List, which supports female Democrats who support abortion rights.

After the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked in May, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said a national abortion ban was “something worthy of discussion,” acknowledging that both state legislatures and Congress would likely take up the issue.
Washington Rep. Kathy McMorris Rogers, former chairwoman of the House Republican Conference; he told a reporter last month that Republicans in the room wouldn’t propose a national abortion ban “before the election,” before adding, “Well, yeah” when asked if they would if they won the House in 2022.

Abby Curran Horrell, executive director of House Majority PAC, the top Democratic super PAC focused on House races, framed the issue as one of Americans losing a basic right — echoing messages that worked for Democrats in 2018 about the health care issue.

“Republicans want to take that right away from Americans, and Democrats want to guarantee that freedom and the freedom to control your body,” he said. “This is taking away a fundamental right that has a significant impact on Americans across the country. And Americans don’t like it when rights are taken away.”

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