by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democrats are trying to make the midterm elections a choice in two ways: a contrast with Republicans rather than simply a referendum on President Joe Biden and a contest defined by abortion rights.
From the White House down, Democrats are looking to use the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade and federal protection of legal abortion to defy the historical odds and retain their narrow congressional majorities.
Previewing Biden’s speech to a rally hosted by the Democratic National Committee, marking the president’s return to the campaign trail ahead of Labor Day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized abortion. She said the administration remains “committed to restoring protections of Roe.” Jean-Pierre also framed the election as a “choice.”
The polling on this strategy is ambiguous. On the one hand, Dobbs is among several factors narrowing the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats as November looms. On the other, abortion still does not appear to be voters’ biggest priority.
A poll by Echelon Insights, a Republican firm, found that when asked which issue is most important to their vote in November, respondents picked reducing inflation over protecting abortion rights by a 39-point margin. Nearly two-thirds of likely voters said inflation to just 27% who named abortion. Even among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, abortion just barely edged inflation, 48% to 46%.
“The key issue is always the state of the economy,” Republican strategist Bradley Blakeman said. “To win in November, Republicans need to focus on the economy and resist the temptation to speak to social issues that are tempting but not helpful to winning.”
In July, a Washington Post poll that found majority support for a federal abortion rights law and an even bigger percentage of people who said Roe’s reversal was a major blow to women’s rights concluded that anti-abortion voters were more enthusiastic about voting in November.