Democrats aim to use abortion rights to disrupt midterm elections

WASHINGTON – A draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has sparked a battle for control of state legislatures, where the next stage of the abortion rights battle is likely to take place.

If the leaked draft opinion does not change substantially and Roe is overthrown, about half of the US states are likely to ban or drastically reduce abortions, according to a New York Times analysis. But in a difficult year for Democrats, party generals see the impending decline in reproductive rights as an opportunity to mobilize key electoral blocs, limit Republican gains and possibly even win seats in some states.

“We do not know exactly what the political environment will be like,” said Jessica Post, chairwoman of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which assists Democratic candidates in the state legislature. “But abortion has the potential to change the game.”

State legislative races are not glamorous high-dollar cases. But the Democratic group had the largest fundraising day of the year following the publication of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft opinion. and raised more than $ 650,000 in 48 hours.

The rise reflects growing recognition among Democratic donors and voters, Ms. Post said, adding that “the federal government is not coming to our rescue.”

In a new note and accompanying website published in the New York Times, the committee outlined its strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. The note acknowledges how, in the 2010 election cycle, “Our chambers were hit hard.”

This year, the note states: “We will not be caught unawares.” The group has already raised $ 30 million and expects to raise $ 50 million to $ 60 million by election day.

Democrats plan to focus on two key areas. They defend their majorities in Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and Minnesota, where they control the states. And they hope to overthrow the legislatures in Michigan, New Hampshire and Minnesota, where Republicans have a small majority in the Senate.

Democrats also see a slightly smaller chance of eroding what they call the “structural advantage” of Republicans in Arizona, Pennsylvania and the House of Georgia. The redistribution process in Arizona, led by a non-partisan committee, has created new maps that continue to give Republicans an edge despite demographic changes in the state that favor Democrats. And in Pennsylvania, the Republican majorities are large enough that it would be difficult for Democrats to surpass them even in a more favorable national environment.

“We know this is a long game,” Ms Post said. “Our goal is to gradually eradicate Republican power in the states.”

The note’s cautious tone reflects the Democrats’ defensive stance amid rapidly rising inflation and sharply low acceptance rates for President Biden – two confusing factors that generals often euphorically refer to as “the environment.” One of the party’s biggest fears is that many of Biden’s voters who came to power in 2020, disappointed with his return to power, will stay home in 2022.

“Even the DLCC now admits that Joe Biden is dragging the state Democrats and that they are in huge trouble ahead of November. Imitating the president’s radical agenda in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania is proving to be a lost strategy, which is why the DLCC is apparently relinquishing its white flag on these battlefields, despite promising to turn it around sooner. ” said Andrew Romeo, communications director. for the Leadership Committee of the Republican State.

The leaked Justice Alito draft “has the potential to be a turning point in an intermediate circle where Democrats face a historically difficult political environment and defeat looks great in tough fights,” Molly Murphy, a Democrat poll, wrote in a note shared by a Democratic colleague. .

The note urges Democrats to tell voters that Republicans are pushing to remove an existing right, while warning against “exaggeration” by seeking to change the status quo on abortion legislation.

“The ruling of the Supreme Court means that every state will now be allowed to criminalize abortions and ban them even in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother,” Murphy wrote.

Other indicators of the potential impact of abortions on state-run races are more anecdotal in nature. Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, which is recruiting young progressives to run for office, said her team had seen “a significant increase in candidate recruitment” since Judge Alito’s draft was leaked.

“I expect this to be just the beginning,” she added.

Gaby Goldstein, co-founder of the Sister District, a progressive pro-Democrat group in the state legislatures, predicted that “vitriol” and the broad scope of the draft opinion could also recruit other communities, such as LGBTQ voters, to embrace the cause. . reproductive rights as their own.

Democrats are targeting state legislatures in states with large tribes of governors, hoping to respond to participation and energy from the top.

Their best chance for a pickup could be in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer is up against a noisy Republican field. On Wednesday, the Union of Democratic Governors said it was investing $ 23 million to bolster Ms. Whitmer’s re-election bid.

Ms. Whitmer has been leaning in the fight for abortion rights, including by filing a lawsuit, demanding that the State Supreme Court clarify “whether the Michigan State Constitution protects the right to abortion.” A 1931 law banning abortion is set to take effect if Rowe is overthrown and Republican majorities in Parliament and the Senate have no intention of stopping it.

To varying degrees, Ms. Whitmer’s Republican opponents are pushing for an abortion ban. One of the candidates, Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor, has made headlines nationwide urging rape victims to continue their pregnancies.

“God put them in this moment,” he said in an interview with the “Face the Facts With April Moss” podcast. He continued: “And they do not know that the little baby inside them may be the next president, he may be the next person who will change humanity.”

National Liberal groups, including the Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, are throwing money at a ballot box initiative that would keep abortions legal in Michigan.

New maps produced by a non-partisan redistribution committee have made the Michigan State Senate a particularly attractive target for Democrats. Thanks in part to the aggressive gesture, Republicans have been in control of the body since the early 1980s. They currently hold a majority of six seats.

Jim Annanic, the top Democrat in the State Senate, said the room was “mature enough to take over,” showing new maps and changing voting patterns among college-educated women in the suburbs. Republicans’ uncompromising stances on abortion, he said, will allow Democrats to present them as unusual with most Michigan voters.

“The public is not looking for a radical agenda,” Mr Ananich said. “They just want us to focus on them.”

Republicans are torn between the demands of the duel: the excitement of their base for cultural crusades, such as the ban on abortions, in the face of ordinary voters’ concerns about paying for gas and groceries. The environment is so favorable, a Republican adviser said only half jokingly, that he would advise candidates to “take a long vacation and come back in November.”

Chaz Nuttycombe, an election forecaster, has estimated that Republicans will win more than 100 state seats in November. Conquering any new halls would be an “uphill” for Democrats this year, he said.

Michael Behm, a lobbyist who specializes in state legislatures, agrees. “They have some serious headwinds in front of them,” he said, “caused by a lot of things that are out of their control.”

Mr Behm admitted he was not yet sure which political party would ultimately help the abortion public, but said Roe’s end could certainly shake things up.

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