Abortion Showdown Looms
Last year, despite massive spending by the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- and by Republican donors-- pro-Choice challenger Marie Newman defeated anti-Choice Blue Dog Democrat Dan Lipinski in Chicagoland. This cycle a similar dynamic is playing out in South Texas, where another pro-Choice progressive woman is challenging another anti-Choice conservative incumbent-- Jessica Cisneros vs Blue Dog Henry Cuellar, one of the goons from No Labels' "Unbreakable 9" which is attempting to wreck Biden's Jobs and Family plan. After the defeat of fellow anti-choice Blue Dogs Lipinski, Collin Peterson (MN) and Ben McAdams (UT) last year, Cuellar is the only one left.
This morning I asked Rep. Newman if she thinks the Supreme Court decision opposing women's choice is going to have an impact in the midterms. She told me that "For districts where people trust women, regardless of their political affiliation, having a candidate or member of congress who does not trust women and supports unconstitutional legislation based in hate, will be a problem for them. Republicans supporting these hate bills need to remember a majority of Americans supports the right to choose.I believe Republicans will be in peril."
Most observers see the new Texas law outlawing abortions, destroying Cuellar's reelection bid. One former Cuellar staffer told me this morning "Yeah, he's done; the tide has turned against him... [and] Abbott put the nail in the coffin with that abortion bounty bill." So far, most of the coverage of the political ramifications of the Texas abortion bill cover the 2022 general election and the two 2021 gubernatorial races in Virginia and California (the recall, which is already in the toilet for the GOP anyway, with support below 40%). Another impact of this kind of attitude is that people are having second thoughts about moving to crazy right-wing Texas.
Yesterday, Zach Montellaro, reporting for Politico, wrote that "outraged Democrats sought to drag the issue of abortion rights into elections across the country, particularly in two key, blue-state governor’s races this fall: California and Virginia. 'It will be a huge motivator for individuals to come out and vote,' Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor who is running again, said in an interview. He repeatedly described himself as a 'brick wall' on women's rights... Candidates and operatives on both sides said they believe that the Texas decision, combined with the looming Dobbs case, said abortion politics could motivate voters to turn out. 'It will be a cornerstone of races in ‘21. And I expect that it will have a significant role in many races in ‘22,' said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, who is up for reelection herself in 2022... McAuliffe, for his part, predicted backlash compared to the last time he ran for governor. 'I saw this from ‘13,' he said. 'It just motivates, first of all, the Democratic base.'"
It motivates both parties bases. But Ro Khanna made a good point earlier today. The ban, he told me-- having come from an Armed Services Committee meeting-- "helps show how radicalized the Republican Party has become. Just yesterday they were opposing paying for birth control for military families!"
This morning, Alex Seitz-Wald and Sahil Kapur, reporting for NBC, wrote that "Democrats in Washington, who face stiff headwinds in defending their majorities in Congress in next year’s elections, see a new opportunity to motivate voters who may have taken abortion rights for granted. And Republicans are dealing with an unsettling new political landscape after having promised to outlaw abortions for decades to motivate their base."
Joshua Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Denver, said Republicans have had a “safe space” for years, because their vow to outlaw abortion was seen as an empty promise by both the left and the right as a result of the support for legal abortion during the previous Supreme Court regime.
Now, that safe space is gone.
“Under Trump, the Supreme Court context changed dramatically. So suddenly you’re in this context where the court might roll back abortion rights,” Wilson said. “That makes the politics more dangerous for Republicans.”
...[Virginia right-wing gubernatorial candidate Glenn] Youngkin appeared to acknowledge that he would lose support in Virginia if he promised to attack abortion rights.
“I’m going to be really honest with you. The short answer is in this campaign, I can’t,” Youngkin said in the video, which was first aired on MSNBC. "When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”
Youngkin has mostly steered clear of abortion unless he is asked, when he has said he opposes abortion rights but believes there should be exceptions for rape and incest and when the life of the woman is at risk-- exceptions not in Texas’ new law.
...In Congress, Democratic lawmakers were once divided, with more rural members opposing abortion rights. But now, the party is largely unified, the product of defeats in rural areas and the loss of the support of white voters who didn’t go to college-- voters who mostly still oppose abortion.
Democrats’ new majority is due to well-educated voters who tend to hold more socially liberal views.
A recent NBC News poll found that 54 percent of Americans want abortion to be mostly legal, while 42 percent want it to be mostly illegal. And the regional disparities are stark: Urban voters want abortion to be legal by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, and rural voters want it to be illegal by a 2-to-1 ratio.
In the suburbs, where control of Congress is likely to be decided, 54 percent of voters say abortion should be legal, compared to 42 percent who say it should be illegal, the poll found. College-educated white voters favor abortion rights by 60 percent to 37 percent.
“The Democrats need things to shake up the midterms in order to buck a lot of historical trends working against them. This could certainly be that,” said former House campaign operative Tyler Law, a Democratic consultant, who posited that abortion rights could “halt gains Republicans hope to make in higher-educated, suburban areas.”
Democrats’ Senate campaign arm said the Supreme Court’s tacit approval of Texas’ law is “a powerful reminder of the stakes in next year’s election-- and why we must defend a Democratic Senate majority with the power to confirm or reject Supreme Court justices.”
The chair of the House Democratic campaign committee, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, vowed to fight “from now until Election Day to make sure that the House Republicans who are coming for reproductive rights lose their seats in 2022.”
Democrats hear Texas abortion restrictions as a rallying cry for the left. Meanwhile, the GOP’s House and Senate campaign committees didn’t weigh in on the Texas law or the court’s quiet greenlighting of it Wednesday.
Republican strategist Matt Gorman, who was communications director for the party’s House campaign arm in 2018, said it’s “too early to tell” what the issue means for 2022 races.
“There’s a chance it fades and is a peripheral issue. There’s a chance it animates women and liberals,” he said. “The key is that Republicans will be asked their stance and whether they agree or disagree. They need to be ready.”
And Republicans are looking to recapture the suburbs after having watched them drift away during Trump’s presidency.
“The state politics matter greatly for the future of abortion rights,” said Wilson, the political scientist. “Because if the Supreme Court begins to erode or dismantle abortion protections in a meaningful way, then that just puts more pressure on to the states to act.”
Alan Grayson, the outspoken progressive running for the Florida Senate seat held by anti-Choice fanatic Marco Rubio, reached out to his supporters yesterday and wrote that "It took almost 50 years, but now it’s happening. Texas has banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy-- when many women don’t even know that they’re pregnant-- and is giving a $10,000 bounty to anyone who reports an illegal abortion. (Wouldn’t it be nice if Texas gave a $10,000 reward to anyone who reports an illegal weapon?) Seven million Texas women of childbearing age will have to leave the state to get an abortion-- an average five-hour drive. And what happens when the neighboring states do the same thing? SHAME on the Texas GOP, voting to ban abortion. The right to decide what to do with your body is the most fundamental right of all. No one should be forced through pregnancy and childbirth.Your time is running out. Now what are we going to do about it? Here’s what I’m going to do-- if I’m elected to the Senate, I will try to amend Obamacare to add A FEDERAL RIGHT TO ABORTION (which, honestly, should have been in there in the first place, but anti-choice Democrats kept it out). We could pass it via reconciliation and it would kill off all of these state bills, because of the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution."
Grayson, who had been a law clerk for three Supreme Court justices before being elected to represent the Orlando area in Congress, is all in on working to help expand the Court if he is elected to the Senate, something I noticed, his primary opponent refuses to even discuss. In his email yesterday, he continued that Democrats "control the House of Representatives. And the Senate. And the White House. We have to use that power to protect a woman’s right to choose-- just as the other side uses their power to destroy that right. What we need are fearless LEADERS who will fight for a FEDERAL RIGHT TO CHOOSE."
He told me this morning that the race between Rubio and himself "personifies" the battle over women's choice. "It exposes Rubio as someone who wants to deprive women of a fundamental right, the right to decide whether or not to have a child. The right for women to control their own bodies... Rubio is a delusional, lunatic extremist who thinks that as soon as the sperm hits the egg, that’s a human being with a 'right to life' supposedly protected by the Constitution. He doesn’t even allow abortion in cases of rape or incest. Here is an actual Rubio quote: 'I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.'"
Erica Smith, the only progressive running for the open North Carolina Senate seat-- in a pool filled with conservatives-- told me this evening that "This is a moment of crisis and the only way we're going to meet this moment is with bold action. We must abolish the filibuster, codify Roe v. Wade, and expand the Supreme Court. Voters understand this. They're not interested in DC formalities or archaic rules, they want their freedoms and their rights. Candidates who fail to understand that will come up short in their primaries and stand no chance in the general... We will end the filibuster. We will expand the court. And we will win this battle for our Democracy and our fundamental human rights."