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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Extends Abortion Rights Shelf-Life

At The Daily Beast Ursula Perano reports that “Abortion may have bailed Democrats out in the 2022 midterms to an extent. But it may also be the big issue in 2024 if Democrats have their way.” Further,

“Even though abortion was a potent political issue in the midterm elections, Republicans haven’t shied away from offering legislation to tighten access to abortion. There’s a GOP effort to restrict abortion pillsat the national level. And a bill to further limit “taxpayer-funded abortions.” And the national abortion ban that plenty of House Republicans continue to support.”

Democrats say the issue is slated to be a centerpiece of their campaign strategy. They think that, after a year of abortion restrictions going into effect—and a term of House Republicans attempting to legislate on the issue—voters in battleground districts might be ready to sway in Democrats’ favor.

When The Daily Beast interviewed the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), she was definitive that abortion would be a main driver for Democrats.

“Republican extremism on abortion is going to lose them the House majority in 2024,” she said last week.

“And remember, we we only need five more seats to take back the majority,” DelBene said. “So critical issues like this that are important across the country are going to be critical in many, many races.”

After House Republicans took back the majority in 2022 by only a fraction of the margin predicted by leadership and pollsters, politicos suspected outrage over abortion restrictions was a driving factor. House Democrats say that’s still salient—and that even in states where abortion has remained relatively safe, national attempts to restrict reproductive rights can be an issue.

Issues come and go, explode, then fade. But, what gives abortion rights such an impressive shelf-life is the fact that the Republicans keep fueling the conflict in state politics.

As Perano notes, “For many states over the past year, strict abortion bans have gone into place, sometimes limiting the procedure to as little as six weeks or banning it altogether….Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said abortion restrictions in Florida have proven to be a potent issue with residents, and the potential for Republicans to add more restrictions, especially in states like hers, hits hard. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a six-week ban in April that is working its way through the state Supreme Court.”

Abortion rights are still at center stage even in swing states, as Zach Montelaro explains at Politico:

Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims for unified Republican control in a state that hasn’t gone for a GOP presidential candidate since George W. Bush, and Democrats hope to retake enough seats to defend abortion rights in the state.

Both parties are expected to dominate the airwaves over the next five months, with every single legislative seat across the two chambers up for grabs in November. Virginia is one of two states with a split legislature — Democrats have a slim majority in the state Senate while Republicans have a narrow one in the state House — and both parties believe they have a viable path to controlling either chamber….Democrats are hoping to claw back power after surprise Republican wins in 2021, testing the saliency of abortion as a winning message ahead of 2024.

Perano notes, “Democrats signaled that they intend to focus heavily on the issue in the general election. “The DLCC gave Republicans a reality check by running on protecting abortion access and creating a winning blueprint for state Democrats,” a recent strategy memo from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee reads.”

Most Republican candidates are stuck with appeasing the anti-abortion extremism of their evangelical base in the primaries. In general elections, they hope to distract voters with other culture war controversies. The Dobbs decision makes that a tough sell.

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