‘This time it’s different’: Kansas abortion victory stokes Democratic hopes

Sharice Davids, Kansas’ lone Democratic congresswoman, applauded her state’s vote to preserve abortion rights this week, which rejected a planned constitutional amendment that could have led to further restrictions on the procedure.

She then went further, suggesting the abortion issue would be central to her campaign to defend her seat in the midterm elections against Amanda Adkins, her Republican challenger who backed the measure.

“We have rejected extremism and chosen a path forward that protects the ability of all Kansans to make their own choices, free from government interference,” Davids, considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, said after publication of the results on Tuesday evening.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade precedent establishing a federal constitutional right to abortion, sparking a wave of draconian new anti-abortion laws in conservative states, Democrats have been hoping to channel anger over the ruling towards better results at the polls in November, where they risk losing control of Congress.

This week’s vote in Kansas has given them greater confidence that abortion both energizes the Democratic base and brings voters to their side, shifting the political dynamic in their favor.

In a staunchly conservative state that backed Donald Trump for president by a 15-point margin in 2020, the pro-abortion camp prevailed by nearly 20 points, with voters in urban, suburban and even some rural areas swaying. opposing the amendment — with a jump in Democratic voter registrations.

“We have seen in the past a lot of issues in the courts do not necessarily translate to an election. But this time it’s different,” said Eric Schultz, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Barack Obama.

Democratic candidates across the country have criticized Republicans for their positions on abortion in recent days, trying to put them on the defensive in races their opponents hoped to focus squarely on high inflation.

They seize on the abortion brakes as the starkest example of the Republican Party’s rightward shift under the influence of former President Donald Trump and his supporters — and believe the message is starting to gain traction.

“A post-Roe reality is no longer a theory, it’s a reality,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“What Democrats do, what politicians do, responds to where people already are. People are excited and angry – and they’re also motivated to vote on this issue in ways we simply haven’t seen before, because we’ve never been in a moment of crisis like this before. .

Democrats still face a major fight in the midterm elections, and it’s far from clear that abortion will trump President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and concerns about the cost of life, issues that give Republicans an edge in many races.

It’s also possible that the Kansas vote was more of an outlier than a signal of broader change. Most political observers still expect Republicans to regain control of the House and possibly the Senate.

“When people vote for their congressman, their senator or their governor, some voters think only of abortion. But other voters will be thinking about a whole bunch of things that aren’t so pro-Democrats — namely, what people think about the economy, what people think about inflation,” said analyst Kyle Kondik. politics at the University of Virginia.

Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, a group that helps young Democratic candidates run for office, said Kansas’ ballot initiative was different from candidate-specific campaigns. However, he pointed out that a majority of Americans want to preserve access to abortion and how strongly they feel about it.

“I think it’s very clear that Democrats and Democratic candidates should feel empowered to talk about abortion and talk about the freedom for people to make their own health decisions without seeing political accountability in it. “, she said. “Democratic candidates really need to make it clear what the issues are. They can’t clog around him. They cannot avoid using the words.

Democrats have traditionally been reluctant to focus their campaigns on abortion for fear that it might seem disconnected from the concerns of middle household wallets. Even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, some were unsure whether to make it a mainstay of their message.

But many party members are coming to the idea that the issue could save them in November.

“Life has changed for people,” said Democratic consultant Martha McKenna. “And that has implications for those Republicans who have been so obsessed with removing abortion rights for decades, and they’re going to be held accountable.”

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