WASHINGTON — A draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has shaken the battle for control of state lawmakers, where the next phase of the abortion rights battle is likely to take place.
If the leaked draft opinion is not materially changed and Roe is effectively quashed, about half of US states are likely to ban or severely restrict abortion, according to a New York Times analysis. But in what might otherwise look like a tough year for Democrats, party strategists see the impending rollback of reproductive rights as an opportunity to boost key voting blocs, curtail Republican gains, and maybe even win seats in certain states.
“We don’t know exactly what the political environment will be like,” said Jessica Post, the chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which assists Democratic candidates for state legislature. “But abortion has the potential to be a groundbreaking issue.”
State legislature races are not a glamorous high dollar business. But the Democratic group had its biggest fundraising day of the year after the release of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft opinion, raising more than $650,000 in 48 hours — a 350 percent increase over a typical two-day period. †
The wave reflected a growing recognition among Democratic donors and voters, Ms Post said, that “the federal government is not coming to save us”.
In a new memo and accompanying website, shared with bohobarmadrid, the committee outlined its strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. The memo recognizes how the 2010 election cycle “caught Democrats with flat feet at the legislative level of the condition and our rooms were hit hard.”
This year’s memo reads, “We won’t be caught off guard.” The group has already raised $30 million and expects to raise $50 million to $60 million by Election Day.
Democrats plan to focus their energies on two main areas. They defend their majority in Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Minnesota, where they control the homes of the states. And they hope to change the legislature in Michigan, New Hampshire and Minnesota, where Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate.
Democrats also see a slightly smaller chance of eroding what they call the Republicans’ “structural advantage” in Arizona, Pennsylvania and the Georgia House. The Arizona realignment process, led by an impartial committee, produced new maps that still give Republicans an edge, despite demographic shifts in the state favoring Democrats. And in Pennsylvania, the majority of Republicans is so large that it would be difficult for Democrats to catch up, even in a more favorable national climate.
“We know this is a long game,” Ms Post said. “Our goal is to slowly erase Republican power in the states.”
The memo’s cautious tone reflects the defensive squat. Democrats find themselves amid soaring inflation and stubbornly low approval ratings for President Biden — two confounding factors strategists often euphemistically refer to as “the environment.” One of the party’s biggest fears is that many of the voters who came for Mr Biden in 2020, frustrated by his performance in office, will stay home in 2022.
Judge Alito’s leaked draft “has the potential to be a turning point in a medium-term cycle in which Democrats face a historically difficult political environment and defeat lurks in tough races,” wrote Molly Murphy, a Democratic pollster, in a memo shared by a Democratic colleague. †
The memo urges Democrats to tell voters that Republicans are pushing for the removal of an existing right, while warning against “overrun” by trying to change the status quo on the abortion law.
“The Supreme Court decision means that any state can now criminalize and prohibit abortion, even in cases involving rape, incest and maternal life,” wrote Ms. Murphy.
Other indicators of the potential impact of abortion on state legislative races are more anecdotal in nature. Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, which recruits young progressives to run for office, said her group had seen “a meaningful spike in candidate recruitment” since Justice Alito’s draft leaked.
“I expect this is just the beginning,” Ms Litman added.
Gaby Goldstein, co-founder of Sister District, a progressive group that supports Democrats in state legislature races, predicted that the “vitriol” and far-reaching scope of the draft advice could also engage other communities, such as LGBTQ voters, to embrace the cause. reproductive rights as their own.
Democrats are targeting state legislature races in states with major governor races, hoping to piggyback on the rise and energy of the top.
Their best shot at a pickup could be in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer takes on a rambunctious field of Republicans. On Wednesday, the Democratic Governors Association said it was investing $23 million to support Ms. Whitmer’s reelection bid.
Ms. Whitmer has joined the fight for abortion rights, including by filing a lawsuit demanding the state Supreme Court to clarify “whether the Michigan state constitution protects the right to abortion.” A 1931 law banning abortion is about to go into effect if Roe is overturned, and Republican majorities in the State House and Senate have no intention of stopping it.
To varying degrees, Ms. Whitmer’s future Republican opponents support the abortion ban. One of the candidates, Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor, has made national headlines by urging rape victims to carry on with their pregnancy.
“God put them in right now,” he said in an interview for the podcast “Face the Facts With April Moss.” He continued, “And they don’t know that that little baby inside them could be the next president, maybe the next person to change humanity.”
National liberal groups, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, are pouring money into a voting initiative that would keep abortion legal in Michigan.
New maps, produced by an impartial reclassification committee, have made the Michigan State Senate a particularly tempting target for Democrats. Thanks in part to aggressive gerrymandering, Republicans have been in control of the body since the early 1980s. They currently have a majority of six seats.
Jim Ananich, the top Democrat in the state Senate, said the chamber was “very ripe for bust,” pointing to the new maps and changing voting patterns among highly educated suburban women. Republicans’ inflexible stances on abortion, he said, would allow Democrats to portray them as out of step with most voters in Michigan.
“The public is not looking for a radical agenda,” said Mr. pineapple. “They just want us to focus on them.”
Republicans are torn between dueling demands: their base’s enthusiasm for cultural crusades, such as outlawing abortion, versus ordinary voters’ concerns about paying for gas and groceries. The environment is so favorable, one Republican consultant said only half-jokingly, that he would advise candidates to “take a long vacation and come back in November.”
Chaz Nuttycombe, an election forecaster, has calculated that Republicans will win more than 100 state seats in November. Winning new chambers this year would be an “uphill climb” for Democrats, he said.
Michael Behm, a lobbyist who specializes in state legislatures, agrees with that sentiment. “They’ve got some serious headwinds ahead of them,” he said, “caused by a lot of things they have no control over.”
Mr Behm confessed he wasn’t sure yet which political party would ultimately help bring the spotlight on abortion, but said Roe’s end could definitely “shuffle everything up”.