We’ve been looking repeatedly at how Democratic Party prospects for the midterms have done a complete about face since:
The illegitimate right wing Trump Court overturned Roe
Trump was exposed in an espionage sting
Republicans rallied against Biden’s very popular student debt forgiveness
But we’ve been looking at it from a congressional perspective, how it’s likely to help— in Pennsylvania, for example— John Fetterman’s Senate race and Matt Cartwright’s, Chris Deluzio’s and Shamaine Daniels’ House races. These factors, however, are helping Democrats up and down the ballot. Sticking with Pennsylvania, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Josh Shapiro has opened up an 11 point lead over crackpot anti-Choice fanatic and fascist Doug Mastriano. The FiveThirtyEight average in the race shows Shapiro ahead by 7 points since the primaries.
This morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the abortion decision has changed the game in the state legislative races as well. Anna Orso wrote that “Party leaders say they already felt cautiously optimistic about their chances of taking control of the state House, where Republicans currently hold a 113-90 advantage, because a favorable redistricting process made them competitive in more districts. Their path runs through the Philadelphia collar counties, which have been getting bluer for two decades. Now, the candidates in those districts are using messaging similar to Democrats running for Congress: They’re reminding Pennsylvanians that abortion access could be curtailed, and that control of the state legislature is a determining factor in whether abortion remains legal through about 24 weeks.
“Conventionally speaking, the party in control doesn’t usually do well in a midterm,” said Rep. Leanne Krueger (D., Delaware), chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, “but abortion has mobilized people.”
Whether the energy lasts or translates into electoral success is uncertain. But Democrats say it’s animated their base like nothing since the Trump era, and it’s fueled an unexpected turnaround.
There was some question in the weeks after the Dobbs decision whether such a seismic shift in American society and health care would translate to the polls. Democrats — who were already in search of a midterm election message as the economy sputtered and President Joe Biden’s job rating tanked — rallied around abortion access.
It’s become clear this month that momentum has shifted.
…A Franklin and Marshall poll released Thursday found support for abortion rights among Pennsylvania voters slightly increased since May. Nearly 90% of respondents said abortion should be legal under any or certain circumstances. Among Republicans, fewer than a quarter believe abortion should always be illegal.
The survey also found enthusiasm on the left has increased in recent months. The number of Democratic respondents who said they were “very interested” in the 2022 elections increased to 66%, from 50% in May. The number of Republicans who said the same, 60%, didn’t change.
“Voter interest among Democrats has gone up, and I think you have to attribute that at least in part to Dobbs,” said Berwood Yost, a pollster at Franklin and Marshall.
The question is how long it lasts.
Mike Barley, a Pennsylvania GOP strategist, said it’s clear Democrats got a rallying cry out of the Dobbs decision, but he questioned whether the motivation would sustain through November. Campaigns and advertising often kick into high gear after Labor Day— so it’s still early.
“I also think you’re going to see some increased enthusiasm on the Republican side,” he said, pointing to other issues including backlash against Biden’s announcement this week related to student loan debt cancellation. “The economy is not doing well, and there’s a lot of things that play into that happening every day.”
…[Melissa] Cerrato is running against incumbent Rep. Todd Stephens, a Montgomery County Republican whom Democrats have been trying to unseat for years. In 2020, Democrats and their allies spent nearly $900,000 attempting to topple him — four times what Republicans spent, according to AdImpact, which tracks political advertising. Stephens won by seven percentage points.
Stephens has held onto his seat in a blue district in part by appealing to more moderate sensibilities. His campaign website says he “believes in a woman’s right to choose and will continue to ferociously defend that right in Pennsylvania.” A mailed advertisement the campaign is sending across the district does not note that Stephens is a Republican, and it says in bright pink letters: “Protect Women’s Rights.”
Another mailer notes Stephens was endorsed by Planned Parenthood’s political arm in 2018 and 2020.
It didn’t mention that, this year, they endorsed his opponent.
Lindsey Mauldin, a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood coordinated campaigns, said in light of the Dobbs decision, the group decided not to endorse Stephens again. She said that when Republicans advanced legislation that would amend the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion, Stephens “did not use his platform to convince others to vote no.”
But he did vote against it.
Cerrato argues that while Stephens “may not be an antichoice extremist,” his seat is part of the Republican majority, which “stands in the way of progress.” That’s a complicated message to get across in 15 seconds on someone’s doorstep.
So Cerrato tells voters Stephens isn’t a leader on the issue. And in some cases, she uses her personal life to appeal to them, telling them about how she worries her four daughters may have fewer rights than she did.
Rachel Ventura is the Blue America-endorsed candidate for the 43rd state Senate district (mostly Will County west of Chicago). This morning, when explaining how she sees GOP escalating actions against Choice, she told me that she left an abusive marriage. “It didn’t start out with physical violence,” she said; “it started with pushing my boundaries and then trampling those boundaries. This is what the Republican party is doing with choice. They have continued to push boundaries on civil rights and women’s choice. Now they are trampling those boundaries. What I learned after my marriage is that I needed to reestablish boundaries and fight for them at all cost to protect myself. This is where America is today. This is the symbolic boundary that we will not be oppressed and give in to tyranny. This is the boundary that everyone must stand up and fight for because of what it represents. So while for many states Choice is on the ballot so is our democracy and self worth. It’s time to take our power back.”
State Sen. Chris Larson of Wisconsin noted that “Election after election, there has been a spattering of ominous tv ads painting a dark, foreboding future where Roe could be overturned if the wrong politicians were elected. Campaign fliers have long filled mailboxes, threatening the same fate. So much of what gets said in campaigns seems to go so far over the top, too many voters gambled that it couldn't possibly be accepted as true. Unfortunately for all of us, the ads were right. What was once hard to imagine is now our reality. We are in the early days of this new fate where a theocratic majority on the U.S. Supreme Court flipped 49 years of legal precedent on its head. In the same decision, one Justice determined to be the most extreme, lightly threatened to come for other rights as soon as they came before him. This time, more voters are taking notice. A 10-year-old having to cross state lines to receive an abortion isn't just dystopian campaign fiction, it's what happened and is being reported on in the evening news. A Texas woman longing to be a mother was forced to carry her lifeless fetus for weeks until the hospital bureaucrats deemed her life was sufficiently at risk before they could offer her what would have been an easy medical procedure. Voters in Wisconsin are noticing. There's no political spin that can convince someone that this is what Americans should accept as normal.”
Kannan Srinivasan is a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates from Loudoun County in the DC suburbs. He told he today that “Almost 20 years back, my wife had spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak (CSF) surgery and was told that pregnancy would be extremely risky to her life. Unfortunately there are no safe interventions in those serious medical situations. In the post Roe v Wade times, it’s very scary to think about complications of high risk pregnancies. Women’s reproduction rights is clearly a healthcare subject. Bringing political agenda into reproduction rights can cause adverse consequences and is very dangerous to any society at all times. Healthcare issues should always be between the individuals, their families and the doctors. Politics and clearly the Supreme Court has no role in preventing any life-saving healthcare measures. In my personal life, I have always been a supporter of my family’s reproduction rights. If I get elected as Delegate, I will be a brick wall to protect women’s reproduction rights in Virginia.” You can contribute to Kannan's-- as well as Rachel's and Chris'-- campaigns here.
Here’s an ad that just started running in connection to the North Carolina U.S. Senate race. It's designed to roast anti-Choice fanatic Ted Budd but I bet smart Democratic state legislative candidates will figure out how to benefit from it in their own campaigns.