KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
– The president’s party often fights in mid-term terms, although extraordinary circumstances can save them from losses. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. On the same subject : An Ohio health worker was fired for an abortion reported in the newspaper. Wade may be the extraordinary circumstance of 2022.
– In addition to abortion, Republicans still retain strong political advantages.
– Democrats could get their version of 2018’s “Kavanaugh effect.”
– 2022 will not definitively resolve the abortion issue.
The midterm after Dobbs
The general result of midterm elections is that the president’s party loses ground, almost always in Parliament and often also in the Senate and State House. To see also : Trump Moves More Than $ 1 Million From His Political Group To His Personal Business After Losing Election. Of the 40 midterm sessions held since the Civil War, the President’s party has lost ground in the House in 37 of them.
The 3 exceptions show that in order to counteract the general midway trend, the presidential party must benefit from some kind of extraordinary event. In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt’s enormous popularity as he fought the Great Depression helped the Democrats achieve a small gain in the House and a large gain in the Senate. In 1998, a roaring economy contributed to Bill Clinton’s popularity, and Republicans likely overplayed their hand on their pursuit of Clinton’s lawsuit over the fallout from his affair with a White House intern. And in 2002, George W. Bush’s popularity in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in the run-up to the Iraq war gave Republicans powerful questions to emphasize as they made modest progress in Parliament and the Senate, turning the latter into GOP control.
While we digest the Supreme Court’s monumental decision last Friday to drop Roe vs. Wade and remove the constitutional right to abortion, which the court originally introduced half a century ago, we must wonder – could this be another extraordinary circumstance that confuses the usual interim effect?
Here are 5 points we are considering:
1. President Biden remains unpopular and the top, non-abortion issues of 2022 favor Republicans
Note that in the 3 fashion examples of the usual midway trend above, the 3 presidents who saw their party’s net seats in an intervening period (FDR, Clinton and G.W. Bush) were all popular. To see also : Statement by HHS Secretary Becerre on the Supreme Court Judgment in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. Clinton and Bush were over 60% approved around the time of the midterm period, and Roosevelt was almost certainly so too (the FDR presidency precedes the modern poll).
The bite is not popular in the meantime. His net approval rating turned negative almost a year ago, in late August following the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan and the random US withdrawal. As of Monday morning, his approval rating in both the FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics averages was around 39% approving / 56% rejecting, the worst touch of his presidency in both averages. These numbers are worse than Donald Trumps at a comparable time in his presidency.
A big part of the reason Biden is struggling is that voters are struggling with inflation at levels that have not been seen in 4 decades. Gas prices are also very high. These are issues that would be difficult for any president, but they are also the ones where Republicans as a party are well equipped to carry out predictable but time-tested attacks.
Republicans often criticize Democrats for high spending, and they can convincingly argue for at least some that the Democrats’ U.S. bailout plan, adopted in early Biden’s presidency, contributed to inflation. Republicans are also used to attacking Democrats over being less supportive of domestic energy production, another potentially effective line of attack given very high gas prices. How fair this critique is belongs in the eyes of the beholder; Our only point is that these lines of attack are directly in the Republicans’ wheelhouse. This is part of the reason why we have been so positive about the Republicans in this midterm period: Since January 1, the Crystal Ball has made 29 rating changes in House, Senate and Governor races: 27 of them have been in favor of the Republicans, while only 2 has come at the expense of Republicans.
If you think the abortion issue will only have a negligible impact on the mid-term period, this is your argument: Roe vs. Wade walking away will not suddenly make Biden popular, nor will it displace the very real problems going on in the country that weighs on Biden (and the Democrats).
It is not surprising that the Democrats immediately after the ruling seem to enjoy something of a leap. The NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist College poll, released Monday morning, got Democrats up 48% -41% on Parliament’s generic ballot. Most other recent generic ballot polls have shown Republicans leading. The generic ballot did not really change when the Dobbs statement was leaked back in early May, although it was a hypothetical decision, whereas this is a real one. We will have to see if this is the start of a new trend, or just a blip.
2. Republicans are on the wrong side of a change in the status quo
Public opinion is very complicated – the public’s nuanced attitude towards abortion is a good example, which we will explore later – but one thing that can get a party in trouble is to challenge or change the status quo in a subject where the party is also on the wrong side of public sentiment.
Healthcare is a good example. In 2010, the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, which as a whole was not popular and which promised a change in the health care status quo. Seven years later, Republicans tried (and failed) to change the ACA (“Obamacare”), which at the time had become the status quo in health policy. They failed to pass on an alternative to Obamacare, but they nevertheless got stuck on the wrong side of the issue because of their very public attempts to change the status quo. The health issue contributed to the losses each party suffered during these mid-term periods.
The Supreme Court, dominated by Republican nominees, has just changed the status quo on abortion, and the status quo on abortion was largely popular. It is common to see support for the Roe vs Wade decision in the 60s in the national public opinion poll. Republicans have wanted Roe overthrown for decades and worked to make it happen through their presidents’ judicial appointments. They have now achieved a signature feat, but they are not really on the right side of public opinion. Abortion will remain legal in many places, but it will also be severely restricted, if not completely banned, in many places.
Almost all presidents seek to make a midterm election more of an election than a referendum, because election elections are generally easier to win than referendums. Democrats have sought everything they can to make this election an election, be it the past president’s transgressions or even political proposals from Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Very little has taken hold so far as the political milieu has remained strong for Republicans. But abortion is such a big issue, and Republicans (through the court) have changed the status quo so dramatically that one can not just assume that the issue does not matter.
Regardless of one’s attitude towards abortion, we think the following is fair to say: Fair legislation on the issue requires a high level of medical expertise and nuance; otherwise there will be regrettable consequences. The New England Journal of Medicine warns in an editorial criticizing Dobbs vs. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that toppled Roe over some of these consequences. Unfortunately, it seems obvious to us that many key state legislators do not possess that kind of expertise and nuances, especially about abortion, to legislate in nuanced ways. The likelihood of Republicans overplaying their hand is high.
3. Public opinion on abortion is muddy
More broadly, the general elite opinion in both parties is not necessarily in line with where the majority of the public is on this issue.
Republicans are generally against abortion rights with few if any exceptions, and Democrats generally support abortion rights with few if any exceptions.
After the Dobbs decision was leaked a few months ago, we discussed public opinion on abortion rights using data from our ongoing survey of Biden and Trump voters with Project Home Fire. We asked respondents whether abortion should be legal, with 0 indicating the maximum opinion on anti-abortion rights and 100 indicating the maximum position for abortion rights on a 100-point scale. Only 7% of respondents chose 0, and 15% chose 100; all others were somewhere in the middle, where 57% of respondents chose a position that was more supportive of abortion rights and 43% chose a position that was less supportive. That kind of nuance is evident in much of the abortion polls.
In other words, there are opportunities for both parties to accuse the other of being extreme in the case. It may just be that Republican extremism about abortion in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs will be easier to pinpoint because of the coming stream of anti-abortion activity in the states, and because the status quo has changed in the direction of their position. But the political damage to Republicans could be mitigated by their previously established benefits in this election cycle (as described in the first part of this article).
4. A Democratic version of the “Kavanaugh Effect”
Some Republican strategists believe the bleak battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court raised a sleepy Republican base and helped limit the GOP’s problems in the 2018 election. , they ended up achieving a small net gain in the Senate, which included beating 3 Democratic Senate members in deep red states. These 3 former Democratic senators – Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp – also believe the fight over Kavanaugh hurt them, which they discussed at a joint event hosted by the UVA Center for Politics in 2019. “The Kavanaugh Effect” is difficult to prove beyond anecdotal evidence, although University of Houston Alex Badas and Elizabeth Simas argued in a recent article in Political Science Research and Methods that judicial appointments are a particularly important issue for Republicans, so it is fair that the battle for Kavanaugh perhaps served to essentially remind some Republican voters whose side they should be on, which may have contributed to the red state senate twists.
One possible result of the Dobbs decision is that it has a similar effect on Democrats, perhaps not changing the basic, pro-Republican path of the election, but giving Democrats in bluish states and districts a good reason to stick to their party on despite financial worries they may have.
This is something we think about in terms of assessments. For example, Republicans appear to have a real chance of overthrowing some blue state governors, such as in New Mexico and Oregon. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) faces a challenge from 2020 Senate nominee and former TV meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, while Oregon is an open seat with a 3-way race among former state president Tina Kotek (D), former State House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R) and a prominent non-aligned candidate, former Democratic State Senator Betsy Johnson. We have held these races as Leans Democratic, although one could argue that they could each be Toss-ups. Our propensity in the wake of the abortion ruling is to keep them where they are so far, assuming the verdict can make it easier for Democratic candidates to capture their basic electorate, even though the basic right to abortion is not under immediate threat in either states. Another race in the same category is the New Hampshire Senate race, where Senator Maggie Hassan (D) seeks another term against an uncertain field; Granite State is very pro-choice, which could help Hassan. Also note that the democratic candidates in all these races are women: for obvious reasons, candidates who are women may be more effective messengers on the abortion issue. There are several other races where abortion seems to be of great importance, such as governor races in Michigan and Wisconsin, which are battlefield states with Democratic governors and Republican lawmakers, where very old pre-Roe laws banning abortion remain in the books. Crystal Ball Senior columnist Louis Jacobson identified these and other key breeds where abortion may have significance earlier this year.
If the Republicans are to have a really big year in the House of Representatives – for example with 35 seats, which would create the largest majority in the GOP House since just before the Great Depression – they will have to win many districts, where Biden in 2020 did it better than he did nationally. If, instead of achieving this goal, Republicans stop at the net area of 15-20 seats, it would likely be an indicator that the abortion issue brought Democratic voters home in Biden-won districts.
To be crystal clear: We still prefer Republicans to turn Parliament around, as they only need to win 5 seats more than they did in 2020 to win the majority. And we think we would still rather be Republicans in the race for the Senate, even though we still have questions about the strength of GOP candidates in key states. The abortion issue can exacerbate these problems. For example, former football star and Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker (R) is against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest (and he is far from alone among Republicans in that regard). Perhaps this position will become difficult to defend as the abortion issue becomes more conspicuous.
5. This election will not be the final verdict on abortion rights
Abortion is among the most difficult political issues due to the deeply felt opinions from both sides. If anyone really believes that abortion is murder, then how can one compromise with such an attitude? Likewise, if one believes that any restriction on abortion effectively reduces women to second-class citizens, then how could that person compromise on it? At the same time, broad sections of the nation do not fit nicely into any of the camps.
Different parts of the nation have different attitudes to abortion. The largely secular northeastern area is very supportive of abortion rights; large parts of the South are both deeply religious and much less adherents of abortion rights. There are even differences within the parties on the issue, though they are not nearly as sharp as they were a few decades ago. Still, one can find a moderate Republican Northeastern governor, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, condemning the Dobbs decision, while a moderate Southern Democrat, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, can effectively support it.
Democrats have already tried, and failed, to codify Roe vs. Wade’s protection of abortion rights in federal law. They will campaign on the topic. Republicans may not be pushing so hard for a national abortion ban immediately after the Dobbs decision, but they can ultimately push for it the next time they have gathered control of the government. National abortion law could end up being the death knell for the filibuster in the Senate. Wild shifts in abortion policy at the state level are certain; such shifts at the national level could come with time.
Elections are rarely ever about just one thing. Abortion will be a bigger issue in 2022 than it otherwise would have been, but it may not change the fundamental trajectory of the election. Whether it does, or does not, does not mean that the problem is solved.
Even under Roe, the nation did not reach a political equilibrium in terms of abortion rights. Once Roe is gone, the nation will either have a patchwork of very different abortion laws depending on the state, or perhaps in the future a uniform national legislative solution that matches some states, but clearly not all. The 2022 election will get the nation started on a future path towards abortion, but the final destination is very unclear.
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|Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D)||Majority whip Jim Clyburn (D)|
|Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R)||Minority whip Steve Scalise (R)|
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