The Democrats’ best political week of the year ended Tuesday night with a powerful punctuation mark in an unexpected place: the crimson state of Kansas.
Voters went there to cast their primary ballots and overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure designed to limit abortion access in the state.
The result appears to provide a decisive answer to one of Democrats’ most pressing questions ahead of the 2022 midterm elections: How big will the opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to remove national abortion rights will be?
The anti-abortion movement has suffered massive defeats by 15 points in every congressional district in Donald Trump’s state in 2020, prompting Democrats to slam the Republican nominee pushing an anti-abortion stance this fall in the making massive rebound.
“This is bad news for House Republican candidates as they conspire to impose a nationwide abortion ban,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden tweeted that the Supreme Court and congressional Republicans “know nothing about the power of women in America.”
“Last night in Kansas,” Biden said, “they found out.”
If Democrats seem to feel a little more than usual after the Kansas result, it’s because they are.
Last year was basically a brutal year for Biden and his Democratic allies, but just last week they signed a law on massive investment in high-tech manufacturing that was long awaited in the Senate Breakthrough deal on climate and tax packages.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress spent a week opposing manufacturing bills they had previously supported, found themselves opposing a historic health care bill for veterans and vowed to oppose legislation that would codify same-sex marriage rights. Recent polls finally show that Democrats remain competitive in the battle for Congress.
If Kansas is the cherry on top of Democrats’ increasingly coherent midterm cases, those closest to the state’s protection of abortion rights can offer some salt.
Ashley All, a spokeswoman for one of the main groups pushing for a “no” in the Kansas referendum, chuckled when she read the DCCC’s statement on the election results.
“Precisely, the vast majority of Americans support access to abortion care, and the vast majority of Americans believe that people should have the right to make private medical decisions for themselves and their families, as well as decisions about their bodies, free from government interference,” All said . “That’s all I have to say, and yesterday’s vote proved it.”
Stephanie Clayton, a former Republican who is now a Democrat from Kansas, said the result was not “some kind of magical referendum” for the party.
“Believe you, I certainly hope the same goes for November,” Clayton said. “But it’s really a conservative country doing what conservatives do, which is telling the government not to interfere in their lives.”
There is a stark difference between voting for a referendum to protect abortion and a Republican swing vote for a pro-choice candidate. Referendums only require voters to agree to a single policy in question – whereas choosing a candidate or party to vote is often a decision made with a mix of political views.
But Democratic agents across the country are hoping that dissatisfaction among Republicans following a June Supreme Court ruling will be enough to push them out of the cycle, even if it means they are left behind on issues like the economy or education. opinion polls show Majority of Americans support maintenance Roe v Wade And disapprove of an outright ban on abortion, especially when exceptions are made.
because Dobbs After the decision, Republicans argued that a sluggish economy and President Joe Biden’s job performance were more motivating to voters than issues such as abortion. The Kansas election — which saw a surge in voter registration, mostly from women, following the court ruling — appeared to be a counterweight to that argument.
But despite their posture on the issue, Republicans have remained silent since the Kansas referendum was voted down.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), an OBGYN, mourned the voter’s decision, writing in a statement on the Congressional website: “I have seen so many sadness and hurt, but no Explain why — it’s one of those moments.” But his Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) did not make a statement on his website, and three Republican members of the Kansas congressional delegation, Neither did Rep. Tracey Mann, Jake LaTurner and Ron Estes.
The Daily Beast also contacted multiple national Republican groups to discuss the referendum; no one responded.
Longtime Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson argues that the growing reticence of GOP leaders and candidates about abortion is obscuring the hope that “no one remembers what they did or wanted to do.”
“Voters rarely decide how to elect officials based on one question,” Ferguson said. “But people would be terrified of what it would mean if these MAGA Republicans were in power.”
And the leader of the Republican Party in Congress – the House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who wouldn’t rule out a nationwide abortion ban if they regain their majority next year, largely avoided talking about it .
Democrats have seized on this ambiguity, and post-congressional staffers see them as key to elevating abortion to an issue in the House and Senate races, where many complex issues are at play.
Democrats need to stress that Republicans will be a rubber stamp for McCarthy or McConnell, a Democratic operative said, because if they take over the House and Senate next year, they will be under intense pressure to implement a nationwide abortion ban.
“This is not a women’s march,” the agent warned. “It’s not like this has become a GOP standard-bearer issue for independent and Republican voters.”
At the same time, abortion could prove more effective in state races, where voters are choosing governors who can sign or veto new restrictions or protections.
David Turner, communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, believes that Republicans’ restrictive stance on abortion will only add to the Democrats’ quill, telling The Daily Beast that “there is ‘extremism within Republican candidates’. The pressure is shutting down all kinds of voters. “
“The biggest case we can make is that the Democrats are fighting for your freedom and your rights, and the Republicans are seeking to take them away — and in some cases punish you,” Turner said.
In Kansas’ campaign to protect abortion, the idea of Republicans as the government’s party to interfere with abortion has been repeatedly used. Kansas’ constitutional liberties lead multiple ads calling for restrictions on abortion”Another task for the government It puts our individual rights at risk” and argues that the proposed abortion ban would be “replace religious freedom under government control. “
Planned Parenthood’s Great Plains ballot, which represents Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, also said Wednesday that the Kansas vote was a reason for candidates to embrace abortion outright, rather than shy away from a practice often seen as politically risky or Destabilizing issues, especially when trying to appeal to moderate or independent voters.
“What we saw yesterday from Kansas told us that reproductive rights is an exciting issue. People are talking about privacy and what it means to make decisions about your family and your life like never before,” PPGP CEO Officer Emily Wales said.
Orr, a spokesman for Kansas’ Constitutional Liberty, said Kansas’ situation was “very unique.” But she did say it holds some lessons for Democrats elsewhere. Orr believes that candidates and groups that support abortion rights are better off having thoughtful communication with various voter groups.
“We found that this issue is not partisan for voters, so while political observers tend to view it partisanally, it’s not how the vast majority of the American people see it,” Orr said. “Progressive, credible pro-choice voters are already involved, but this shift has really ignited the fires of more moderate voters, some conservative voters, some liberal voters who just don’t want the government involved in their business.”
Kansas Rep. Clayton said the Democrats’ ultimate message should be that “these candidates want to take control of your life.”
“I respect you,” she continued, delivering a Democratic message. “You know how to run your own life.”
In other key states where abortion will be a major issue this fall, Democrats who have been crafting that message have been encouraged by the Kansas election — which they are already using to inform their playbook.
This includes Michigan, where a war is going on about the state’s pre-roe The abortion ban and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is facing off against Republican Tudor Dixon, who has made extreme comments about abortion in the past.
Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Michigan, who recently rose to prominence against Republican culture war attacks, said Democrats are “threading the thread together” against Republicans like Dixon.
“It’s a party of small government, running on a platform, about how to raise your children or what you can do with your body, especially if you’re a woman,” McMorrow said. “The Democrats are long overdue to lean toward, ‘We are the party of freedom and choice, and this Republican Party is trying to take away your choice.'”