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What is going on
Kansas voters on Tuesday are said to have removed abortion protections from the state constitution and left room for the Republican-led legislature to further restrict access to abortion.
The vote was the most significant test of the strength of abortion as a political issue since June, when the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade in 1973. The result in Kansas was a surprise, not only because voters in a scarlet state sided with abortion rights, but also because they did so at such a time.
Roe’s turnaround turned the status quo on abortion politics that had existed for nearly 50 years. Although it was soon clear that it would be with the Supreme Court ruling, it was unclear what effects the decision would have at the ballot box. The Kansas vote is a clear win for abortion rights advocates, but there is much debate about how much to read into the result when predicting other key races going into November’s midterm elections.
Why is there discussion?
In the eyes of many political commentators, the Kansas vote is a signal that the American electorate is incredibly mobilized to protect access to abortion in the wake of Roe’s repeal — a trend they believe could benefit Democrats significantly if they trying to maintain a slim majority in both houses of Congress. They argue that while Democrats still face strong headwinds in the meantime, a wave of enthusiasm from their grassroots — plus an increase in support among independents — could be enough to spark a critical number of close-knit races in their ranks. to tip advantage.
But skeptics say there are plenty of reasons to doubt it. They say Kansas was unique in that abortion rights were literally on the agenda, while most pivotal races in the upcoming midterm elections will ask voters to pick from individual candidates. In those cases, they argue, voters are likely to consider a long list of factors other than abortion when deciding who to support. Others say that while the abortion issue may give Democrats a little boost, it won’t be enough to overcome discontent over inflation, public safety concerns and President Biden’s low approval ratings.
Another group argues that the midterms can be determined by the party that uses the lessons from Kansas most effectively. Democrats, they argue, will have to work aggressively to convince voters that their GOP opponents pose a real threat to abortion access and to keep the issue at the forefront of the news cycle until November. Some conservative commentators argue that Republicans in swing states can refute this narrative by embracing more modest — and less unpopular — restrictions on abortion access, rather than the near or total bans the party’s right wing supports.
A handful of states will have abortion directly on the ballot in November. Voters in Kentucky will vote for a ballot initiative similar to the one rejected in Kansas. A move in Montana would increase the legal burden on doctors who perform abortions. In contrast, in California and Vermont, voters will decide whether to add language guaranteeing access to abortion into their state constitutions.
The long-awaited Republican wave may not come after all
“This result was an earthquake that, for now, has rewritten conventional wisdom about what might happen in November.” — Daniel Strauss,
One vote in one state is not a measure of where the country stands on abortion
“I’m sure the Democrats are reading too much of last night’s results. … A bad result from a confusing amendment in a state that is relatively moderate on abortion does not reflect how Americans feel about abortion policy.” —Alexandra Desanctis,
If abortion rights were a powerful issue in Kansas, they will be even more powerful elsewhere
“In the coming days, experts will analyze the results from Kansas and try to apply them to other states. We applaud that work. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said states, not women, should decide this issue. Now Kansas, one of the most conservative states in the country, has answered his call.” — Editors,
Republicans Have So Many Benefits That Abortion Doesn’t Affect Final Results
Democrats continue to face huge headwinds in November, including major voter discontent over inflation, low ratings for President Joe Biden and the party’s nearly unbroken history since the Civil War that sees the White House taking seats in the United States. the House of Representatives loses during one of the president’s first two years.” —Ronald Brownstein,
Democrats need the right strategy to seize the opportunities
“Abortion isn’t the only issue that brings people to the polls and affects how they vote. But if party activists claim abortion is on the agenda in November, if they boost the turnout of pro-choice voters, and if Democratic candidates can achieve even a small fraction of the clout in Kansas, the 2022 political calculation could be dramatic. have improved for Biden and for his party.” —John Nichols,
Voters may weigh abortion very differently when asked to choose actual candidates
“There’s a good reason to be wary” [of] the old maxim of Fleet Street journalism – simplify first, then exaggerate – in some post-Kansas analysis. The impact of abortion politics on the midterm elections remains obscure. In most cases, voters will choose from among candidates, not over a well-defined referendum.” — John F. Harris,
Abortion Is Just One Of Many Issues That Will Make Voters Reject GOP Extremism
“The implications of the Dobbs ruling go far beyond abortion itself. … The far right is also on the wrong side of public opinion on everything from gun violence to drug price controls and, of course, to the attempted coup of January 6, 2021.” —Robert Kuttner,
GOP candidates will have a hard time selling a sober abortion message
“Will the conservative base, emboldened by the long-sought overthrow of Roe v. Wade, push candidates to show support for a federal abortion ban? If so, every Republican candidate on this issue will be cornered. That was probably before the primary result in Kansas, and now it’s both likely and a potentially huge problem for the party. —Rex Huppke,
Abortion won’t drastically change the fate of Democrats, but it might help them win some important races
“The political climate for Democrats has improved since Dobbs’ decision. And that could mitigate the medium-term landslide losses normally expected from a congressional majority weighed down by negative economic growth and the incumbent party chairman’s unprecedented disapproval at this point in his tenure.” —Michael Tesler,
Anyone predicting what will happen in the meantime is just guessing
“It’s also hard to say whether the result in Kansas predicts much about November. …It’s fair to say that the abortion issue will help Democrats more than hurt this fall, but any more than that is just guesswork.” — Jonathan Bernstein,
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