Why Abortion is Key to the Midterm Message
The Democratic focus on abortion has shifted the landscape and put Republicans on the defensive
The sense that the political environment has shifted in Democrats’ favor is so pervasive even noted pessimists as I have come around. There are lots of reasons for the Democratic turnaround — lower gas prices, a run of legislative successes, a renewed focus on Donald’s chaotic criminality — but there is no reason more central than the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Since that day, Democrats have been pressing their advantage. According to a recent report by the New York Times:
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.
Some may wonder why Democrats are investing so much money in abortion messaging during high inflation and in the wake of critical legislative successes that need to be sold to the electorate. A focus on abortion is unusual for Democrats. While many campaigns, including President Obama’s reelection, hammered Republicans for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, it is rare for Democrats to mention the word “abortion” in an ad.
While it may seem counterintuitive, it makes our messages more credible and effective. And there are a few reasons abortion must be central to the Democratic strategy.
Extremist Arguments Become More Credible
Most voters are skeptical of any and every argument from politicians. And they are especially skeptical about negative campaign ads. Voters think politicians lie about everything, and they always lie about their opponents. That’s why some of the seemingly devastating ads that we see on Twitter (and the hit YouTube show Political Experts React hosted by yours truly) barely move the needle in most campaigns. Democratic efforts to turn this midterm from a progress report on Democratic governance into a referendum on GOP extremism failed to connect until the Dobbs decision. That was when Republican extremism went from an abstract argument to lived reality. Many people thought Republicans didn’t really mean it when they talked about banning abortion or that their words didn’t matter because the constitutional right to abortion services was in no danger of being overturned. The Republicans exacerbated the problem by following up the Dobbs decision with a series of laws and proposals like total bans, restricting interstate travel, and limiting IVF.
The fact that Republicans wanted abortion banned, and then it was banned has many people much more concerned about other extremist positions like ending access to contraception and marriage equality. A politician that denies access to abortion to rape victims is also a politician that seems like to ban contraception, out law gay marriage, end Social Security, and steal an election.
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