Democrats Betting Big on Abortion

They're spending millions on issue ads in the wake of Dobbs.

NYT (“Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022“):

All across America, Democrats are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor’s races that show how swiftly abortion politics have shifted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June.

With national protections for abortion rights suddenly gone and bans going into effect in many states, senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor. They say it has not only reawakened the party’s progressive base, but also provided a wedge issue that could wrest away independent voters and even some Republican women who believe abortion opponents have overreached.

In the fallout of the ruling, Democrats see the potential to upend the typical dynamic of midterm elections in which voters punish the party in power. In this case, although Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, it is one of their top policy priorities — access to abortion — that has been most visibly stripped away.

“Rarely has an issue been handed on a silver platter to Democrats that is so clear-cut,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster working with multiple 2022 campaigns. “It took an election that was going to be mostly about inflation and immigration and made it also about abortion.”

In the roughly 50 days since the Supreme Court’s ruling, Democrats have flooded the airwaves in many of the nation’s most closely watched contests, spending nearly eight times as much as Republicans have on ads talking about abortion — $31.9 million compared with $4.2 million, according to data from AdImpact, a media tracking firm. And in the closest Senate and governor’s contests, Republicans have spent virtually nothing countering the Democratic offensive.

I have no idea whether this will work but it’s a reasonable strategy. Dobbs has flipped the script. Previously, anti-abortion activists were angry that the Supreme Court was limiting the ability of state legislatures to restrict the practice, while abortion rights activists had a “Constitutional right” on their side. Now, anti-abortion activists are busy enacting laws that scare the hell out of women who want to keep the option to have an abortion open.

Thus far, the polling doesn’t show much of a swing. But we’re three months away from the election and most voters are barely starting to pay attention to the race. To the extent that there are significant numbers of persuadables in competitive races, this issue could well be a difference maker.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2022, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. steve says:

    CRT as a issue, which hardly exists, worked well for the GOP. The abortion issue is real. I was personally assured by Republicans that the GOP would not go overboard but it looks pretty clear they are with states like Indiana passing total bans though they did allow for some exceptions. In my state Mastriano would go further and provide no exceptions if he could.

    Will this be enough to change elections? Beats me. I think it fires up both sides so turnout will be key.

    Steve

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  2. DK says:

    I haven’t seen the ads, but I hope they’re tied to a broader message on Trump-Republican radical extremism vs competent, productive Democratic Party governance.

    Thus far, the polling doesn’t show much of a swing.

    Polling didn’t catch undecided Kansas voters swinging hard against forced birth either, according to the spate of articles with titles like “Poll shows Kansans closely divided on constitutional amendment on abortion:”

    As things stand in the Co/efficient poll shared with FiveThirtyEight, 47% of the more than 1,500 voters sampled support the so-called “Value Them Both” amendment, and 43% are against it.

    That was on 20 July, a months after Dobbs, two weeks before the Kansas vote.

    The 2 Aug result was 41% yes, 59% no.

    Out: What’s the matter with Kansas?
    In: What’s the matter with pollsters?

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  3. Tony W says:

    Beyond the 10-year old rape victim’s story, the main stories that are going to be the most centrist, the most compelling, are the dozens of anecdotes coming out about doctors afraid to give basic medical care to women with dying/dead fetuses that are turning septic – ruining women’s ability to have future children and endangering their health to the point of nearing death.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    Thus far, the polling doesn’t show much of a swing.

    Since Dobbs, the generic ballot has shifted toward the Democrats. The Dems are now considered favorites for Senate control. Now, it’s not known that Dobbs is the reason for the shift–there are several other factors that may have contributed–and the effect might not be sustained after Labor Day. But the statement that there’s been no shift in the polls is simply false.

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  5. Kathy says:

    I think The Simpsons solved this issue decades ago.

    2
  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To repeat myself from the open thread:

    MommaT
    @tweetmommybop
    My teen daughter was asked by her doctor when was her last menstrual period. She said “it’s regular, no need for dates”. When I asked her why the reply, she told me that doctors can no longer be trusted and they should become accustomed to not knowing. Welcome to the new America.

    Kansas showed just how much this hits home with women.

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    @steve:..I was personally assured by Republicans that the GOP would not go overboard

    I gotta’ ask. Did you believe them?

    1
  8. JKB says:

    Unfortunately, for the pollsters and the pro-abortion activists, the fight is now in the state houses. Congress, the Senate and even the Presidency can do little other than generate a fury.

    I do believe there will be a realignment in the state legislatures. Until 5 months ago, a state politician with total-ban beliefs could be basically ignored as Roe kept them in check. Now, their positions matter. Many have rushed to total-bans, which is not where the majority of the population is. Now the total-ban and no-limit politicians have to be limited by the the voters. But none of that is on the federal level.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: A thought out and respectful comment with a valid point to make. I mostly agree and will partailly and respectfully disagree. Yes, much of the fight is at the state and local level. Democrats have failed to effectively fight back as small legislative majorities in purple states like WI and OH have been gerrymandered into GOP fortresses, and they need to fight back. But part of the GOPs success locally has been in nationalizing local politics. My now native FL is moving to make school board elections partisan so they can make them about made up national issues like CRT and “grooming” instead of about mundane issues of school administration.

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  10. Modulo Myself says:

    The Republicans are a minority party trying to force a realignment based totally on culture, and either it works or it doesn’t. But–in my opinion–picking issues which might be popular in a poll (like going after trans kids) or definitely are not (banning abortion) does not have any of the weight of the tax revolts of the late 70s, which was a big blow for realignment. There’s a degree of insularity behind this decision: mostly, the people calling the shots are too invested in the culture war to grasp how ugly this ideology appears when applied to things like women’s health and how insignificant trans issues are too normal parents under 50 who haven’t been brainwashed by a Christian cult.

    So it’s three months out, but the GOP is losing ground in what should have been a wave election. If Vance and Masters lose in the Senate, that’s 2 young Thiel-backed candidates who go down. The Democrats winning a Ohio senate race would be an insane reversal. It will throw the GOP into media-driven disarray.

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    My now native FL is moving to make school board elections partisan so they can make them about made up national issues like CRT and “grooming” instead of about mundane issues of school administration.

    The downside of this is that reciprocally you are nationalizing the type of cranks who end up getting fired up about school curriculums, and these are people who have always been unpopular. People might sigh and tolerate some lunatic ranting about groomers over there–when there’s nothing at stake for the majority, except their own patience–but tolerance only goes so far.

    Also, you can’t run things through cranks. It’s like getting your legal advice from Rudy. The cranks get busted or go onto something else. They are not the people who do the actual work. Look at abortion–the pro-life movement spent 0% of its time trying to figure out what a post-Roe world would look like. That’s too hard, and it’s easier to look at enlarged photos of tiny fetuses all day.

    1
  12. Kylopod says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The Democrats winning a Ohio senate race would be an insane reversal. It will throw the GOP into media-driven disarray.

    The Ohio race is indeed interesting. 538 rates the race as “Likely Republican,” despite the fact that their own average shows Ryan ahead, and in fact Vance hasn’t led in a single poll since May. I assume they’re banking on the normal partisan tendencies of the state kicking in by the fall. We’ll see.

    My concern with races like this is that it might cause some Dems to divert money and resources that could have been used in more necessary races.

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  13. Modulo Myself says:

    @Kylopod:

    Vance is just so fucking bad. He has zero experience as a politician, and he’s also utterly unlikeable. The other guy–an affable Middle American doof–he beat would be beating Ryan right now.

    I do think that the younger version of the GOP is incapable of picking normal people you would invite to a party or anything. Whereas the Democrats have Fetterman and Warnock, both of whom are going to be the stars when they win, especially if the GOP doesn’t get the Senate.

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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself: There’s nothing very amiable about Josh Mandel, the guy Vance beat in the primary. Long time Republican apparatchik and asshat who’s eagerly adapted as a MAGA.

    1
  15. gVOR08 says:

    When I retired we moved to DeSantisstan, which is a constant irritant. But since we left, Ohio has become as bad or worse. If you have access Jane Mayer has a good article in New Yorker about what’s happened. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Redmap got a GOP majority elected in 2010 which gerrymandered a safe GOP majority. Since then popular referenda requiring non-partisan redistributing have passed twice and been ignored. The current map was rejected by state courts including the GOP dominated state Supreme Court. But the lege delayed and finally took it to the federal supremes who ruled it illegal, but too close to the election, so whatcha gonna do? The Bush v Gore non precedent precedent of schedule dates being an absolute requirement, honest elections not so much so. This election will cement a GOP supermajority in a near 50/50 state.

    Gov Dewine was an establishment GOP. He made an effort to deal responsibly with COVID, got steamrollered, and is apparently now committed to expediency.

    I looked up the Ohio state house map. My old hometown of Cincinnati is split like five ways by rural districts, each with a toehold stretched into Cincinnati.

    3
  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08:

    A thought out and respectful comment with a valid point to make.

    Indeed! And just like lightning strikes, important to pay attention to when they happen no matter how rare.

    1
  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I do think that the younger version of the GOP is incapable of picking normal people you would invite to a party or anything.”

    This may become a factor in the overall shrinking of the Republiqan base in other states than Washington, Oregon, and California. Time will tell. (If anyone wants to add other states, please feel free.)

    1
  18. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    There’s this almost pathological vibe to the Republican base where they’re deliberately choosing the worst possible candidates because they can’t bear the idea of pretending to be nice to win an election. They need to be able to show they can force the worst possible version of themselves on everyone.

    1
  19. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Unfortunately, for the pollsters and the pro-abortion activists, the fight is now in the state houses. Congress, the Senate and even the Presidency can do little other than generate a fury.

    Not quite. Much of the current battle is in the statehouses however, in his recencent statements and in his Dobbs’ Opinion, he indicated, even invited legal challenges related to the availability of contraception.

    I believe that Democrats can very effectively campaign on: (1) the very real possibility that on abortion Republicans have their sights on a Federal Ban which would move the action out of the statehouses and into the streets; and (2) if Griswold v. Connecticut is challenged and overturned, the availability of contraception would be curtailed.

    That should be ample motivation for Democrats from now through 2024.

    4
  20. Mu Yixiao says:

    This is where my marketing background meets my evil side.

    Dem PACs should create a series of ads that show a large, 30-something, black man standing behind a blond, blue-eyed, teen-aged girl with text that’s variations of “She’s my baby-momma”.

    Toss in a few variations where it’s a very white husband and wife in a maternity ward, and the woman is holding a mixed-race baby.

    What do they fear more: Abortions? Or a big black man knocking up their “innocent” little daughter–or “virtuous” wife?

    The first approach will speak to the dads, the second to the women.

    Use their racism against them.

    2
  21. Chip Daniels says:

    I’m optimistic that this will help.
    Talking about the rising fever of authoritarianism and radiclaism may be true, but it tends to be abstract.

    Abortion is something that hits directly at everyone- not just women, but their loved ones who know that the most powerful and intimate medical issues any family can have will now be dictated by bureaucrats and politicians.

  22. Jax says:

    @Chip Daniels: It’s not even “abortion”, per se….what we’re finding out about most of the men voting for these measures now is they don’t even understand how Plan B works.

    There’s probably a lot to say about how they don’t understand how the female body works, but we’ll stick to “you shouldn’t pretend to be an expert if you don’t know how fertilization works” and hold off on the “satisfying your woman” conversation, lest we rile the incel’s up. 😛 😛

    3
  23. Barry says:

    @JKB: “Now the total-ban and no-limit politicians have to be limited by the the voters. But none of that is on the federal level.”

    No, they will be decided by gerrymandered legislatures.
    Until the next time that the GOP gets Congress and the White House, when it *will* be decided at the Federal level.

    1
  24. Blue Galangal says:

    @gVOR08: I had a great time here in Warren County on July 30th (politely) turning away a canvasser for a “CONSERVATIVE!Q! WOMAN!” by saying we are a pro choice household and asking if her candidate believes a 10 year old should have a rapist’s baby. She clapped her mouth shut, said, “Thank you,” and turned on her heel and walked away.

    1