The political power of abortion rights proved more powerful than the damper on President Biden’s popularity in Tuesday’s off-year election, as Ohioans wrote abortion rights into the their state constitution and that Democrats took control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly while holding on to the governorship of Kentucky.
The evening’s results showed the durability of Democrats’ political momentum since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to abortion in 2022. It could also, at least temporarily, end the latest round of Democratic concern following a series of polls showing Mr. Biden’s political weakness.
After a strong midterm performance last year, a resounding victory at the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April and a string of special election victories, Democrats are heading into Mr. Biden’s re-election race with the wind in their arms. the back. The question for the party is how to convey that momentum to Mr. Biden, who remains unpopular as other candidates on his agenda have prevailed.
Here are the key takeaways from Tuesday:
Nothing helps Democrats like abortion.
Democratic officials have been saying for months that the fight for abortion rights has become the issue that most motivates Democrats to vote, and it’s also the issue that persuades most Republicans to vote for Democrats.
On Tuesday, they found new evidence to bolster their case in victories for Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, who criticized his opponent’s defense of the state’s near-total ban; Virginia legislative candidates who opposed Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 15-week abortion ban; and especially the Ohio referendum establishing the right to abortion. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate who ran for abortion rights, Daniel McCaffery, also won, giving Democrats a 5-2 majority.
Abortion is now such a powerful Democratic issue that Everytown, the gun control organization founded and funded by Michael Bloomberg, used its Virginia television ads to promote abortion rights before discussing the armed violence.
The anti-abortion Democrat running for governor of Mississippi, Brandon Presley, failed to meet expectations.
It is a sign that, however weak Mr. Biden’s position may be, the political environment and the stakes remain strong for Democrats who fight for access to abortion and against Republicans who defend abortion. ‘prohibition.
Kentucky’s last six gubernatorial elections have been won by the same party that won the presidential election the following year. The president may not be able to do what Mr. Beshear managed — talk about Biden’s policies without ever mentioning the president’s name — but he now has examples of what a sheet could look like winning route for 2024.
In Virginia, a rising Republican star faces eclipse.
Gov. Youngkin had hoped a strong night for his party would greatly enhance his stature as a Republican who has turned a state from increasingly blue to red. This would at least include him in discussions for the Republican presidential nomination in 2028, or even 2024.
But Mr Youngkin’s promise to pass what he calls a moderate abortion law – banning abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and to save a woman’s life mother in danger — gave Democrats an effective counterattack as he sought total control of the state. government.
The Democratic argument won, at least in part. The party captured a majority in the House of Delegates, retained control of the state Senate and definitely ruined Mr. Youngkin’s night. The results offered nervous national Democrats further proof of the power of abortion as a motivator for their voters, while upending term-limited Mr. Youngkin’s plans for his final two years in office, and perhaps be beyond.
A Democrat can win in deep red Kentucky if his name is Andy Beshear.
Being the most popular governor in the country turns out to be a good thing if you want to be re-elected.
Mr. Beshear spent his first term and re-election campaign hyper-focused on local issues such as teacher salaries, new highway projects, the state’s direction through the pandemic and natural disasters and, since Supreme Court decision last year overturning Roe v. Wade, opposing his mandate. the state’s total ban on abortion.
This made him politically bulletproof when his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who was supported by former President Donald J. Trump, sought to nationalize the campaign and increase Republican Party participation by linking Mr. Beshear to Mr. Biden and attacking him for crime and LGBTQ issues. (Mr. Beshear vetoed new restrictions targeting transgender youth, although Republican lawmakers voted to ignore it.)
It’s not like Republican voters are staying home; every other Republican running for statewide office won with at least 57 percent of the vote. Mr. Beshear has just enough to support him for governor. A Democrat who can win over Republican voters without compromising on issues important to liberal voters is someone the rest of the party will want to emulate in red states and districts across the country.
Attacks on transgender rights have not worked.
As access to abortion has become the primary issue motivating Democrats and same-sex marriage is widely accepted in the United States, Republicans, seeking motivation to motivate social conservatives, have ended up restricting the rights of transgender people. On Tuesday, it didn’t work.
In Kentucky, Mr. Cameron and his Republican allies spent more than $5 million on television ads attacking LGBTQ rights and Mr. Beshear for his defense of them, according to AdImpact, a company that tracks political advertising. Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi spent $1.2 million on anti-LGBTQ ads, while Republicans running for legislative seats in Virginia devoted $527,000 of television time to the topic.
Indeed, in Virginia, Danica Roem, a member of the House of Delegates, will become the first transgender senator from the South after defeating a former Fairfax County police detective who supported banning transgender athletes from participating in sports competitions in high school.
In Ohio, voters support both abortion and pot.
Ohioans once again demonstrated the popularity of abortion rights, even in reliably Republican states, when they easily approved a constitutional amendment establishing the right to abortion.
The Ohio vote could be a harbinger of the upcoming presidential election season, when both supporters and opponents of abortion rights attempt to put the issue before voters in critical states like Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Abortion rights groups entered a winning streak Tuesday with such ballot measures since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. And ultimately, Ohio voters did like their predecessors: chose to preserve the right to abortion in their state.
And by almost the same margin as the abortion vote, Ohioans also legalized recreational marijuana use. This will make Ohio the 24th state to do so.
Where abortion was not an issue, a Republican won easily.
The Mississippi gubernatorial race was the exception to the rule in this off-year election on abortion: the incumbent governor, Mr. Reeves, and his Democratic challenger, Mr. Presley, presented themselves as staunch opponents to the right to abortion.
And in that race, the Democrat lost.
Mr. Presley hoped to close the race in Mississippi by linking the outgoing president to a public corruption scandal that saw the misspending of $94 million in federal funds intended for Mississippi’s poor on projects like a college volleyball center pushed by retired superstar quarterback Brett Favre. He also pushed for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to save Mississippi’s crumbling rural hospitals.
But in Mississippi, Mr. Reeves had three advantages that proved impenetrable: incumbency, the “R” next to his name on the ballot, and the right to vote. support for Mr. Trumpwho won the state in 2020 by nearly 17 percentage points.
In the Kentucky races conducted on the sidelines of the gubernatorial race, Democrats also did not run on abortion and, like Mr. Presley, they lost.
Rhode Island sends Biden aide to House.
Rhode Island isn’t exactly a swing state, but the election of Gabe Amo to one of his two House seats in this heavily Democratic enclave most likely made Mr. Biden smile. Mr. Amo was deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and, in that capacity, becomes Biden’s first White House aide to advance to Congress.
The son of African immigrants, Mr. Amo will also be the Ocean State’s first black representative.
White House officials said the president congratulated his former aide on his victory. The special election fills the seat vacated by David Cicilline, a Democrat who left his seat to run a nonprofit.