Washington, DC – With less than 75 days until the midterm elections, it has become increasingly clear that the threat to abortion rights is motivating voters to head to the polls and make their voices heard. In a post-Roe America, we are seeing what Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations have always known to be true: abortion is a winning political issue. In NY-19’s special election this week, Pat Ryan came out victorious after making abortion a hallmark of his campaign. Ryan’s win is a bellwether for how abortion access may play out in highly contested races across the country this fall.
Ryan shared what he learned from his victory with the New York Times:
“Stand up and fight. Stop pulling our punches. Conventional wisdom is that abortion rights and reproductive rights are a really emotional, very personal topic, but to me that calls even more for being clear, so people really know where your heart is.”
Earlier this month, Kansans came out in droves to protect their reproductive freedom by rejecting an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. The results in Kansas — a state not commonly seen as an electoral battleground — show that voters across the country are energized and ready to fight back to protect their health and rights. Anti-abortion politicians should brace themselves to feel voters’ wrath come November.
Key stories this week:
Mr. Ryan’s victory in the 19th District of New York quickly topped the list of signs that the fall campaigns may be more competitive, in more places, than strategists in both parties had once anticipated. The New York race also came a few weeks after the Kansas referendum, which showed that voters even in traditionally conservative states believe it is possible to go too far in restricting abortion rights — but that was an up-or-down vote on a single ballot question. Democrats quickly looked to Mr. Ryan’s race to test whether the issue could resonate in a congressional contest, as voters weighed two personalities and a range of other considerations.
Passion about abortion rights has fueled a stunning turnaround in Democrats’ midterm fortunes. 75 days from Election Day, Democrats have a good chance of keeping the Senate. And keeping the GOP to a narrow win in the House is now a realistic possibility, Axios' Josh Kraushaar writes. Inflation's slowdown and lower gas prices are big factors. But officials in both parties tell us abortion has animated Democratic engagement like no other issue since President Trump left office. Abortion has helped drive primary-season triumphs for Democrats both in fundraising — and in turnout that approaches, and in some cases exceeds, historic 2018 levels.
But the larger lesson of 2022 so far is that a focus on protecting abortion rights from the US Supreme Court and Republican-controlled state governments could, maybe, stop a “red wave” in November. In upstate New York, an Iraq War veteran, Democrat Pat Ryan, passed his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, in a House special election Ryan framed almost entirely around abortion. Ryan did better in the district against Molinaro than President Joe Biden did versus former President Donald Trump in 2020. Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that his decision to focus on abortion came from watching the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision on the ground in his district. “I think you win in any endeavor when you actually listen to people on the ground,” he said.
How many examples does it take to make a trend? Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election in an evenly divided Upstate New York House district that is one of the swingiest in the country. Former President Obama won it in 2012, former President Trump won it in 2016 and President Biden won it in 2020. Ryan won it by about 2 points Tuesday, and following on abortion-rights supporters' win on a ballot measure in Kansas earlier this month, he made abortion rights the key issue in his election. Republican Marc Molinaro, on the other hand, made his race about inflation and crime. It can be tempting to overread the results of special elections. They are generally low-turnout affairs that draw the most engaged voters. In recent years, however, they have been indicators of which party has the most enthusiasm, and the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade is a pretty clear line of demarcation.
Perhaps the most powerful driving force behind Democrats’ recent special election performances is the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade. There are signs that have led to a surge in registrations by women and Democrats are hoping that, coupled with recent legislative successes for President Biden, it is a potential game changer.
Both parties nominated mainstream candidates to fill Delgado’s seat [in NY-19], and invested heavily in the race as they road-tested messages in a dress rehearsal for November: abortion rights for Democrats and the economy for Republicans. In a near-perfect swing district, the small-turnout election favored the Democrat, a county executive from the Establishment wing of the party. This comes on the heels of Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejecting an amendment to the Kansas constitution that would have made it easier for the state legislature to further restrict access to abortion.
Democrats have now outperformed Biden in four House special elections since the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v Jackson, and even voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly voted to protect abortion rights in a referendum there. Across the country, Democratic candidates have leaned into the issue and are now lashing their Republican opponents over their opposition to abortion.
Planned Parenthood Votes is an independent expenditure political committee registered with the Federal Election Commission.
Paid for by Planned Parenthood Votes, 123 William St, NY NY 10038. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.