Kansas referendum boosts Democrats' midterm focus on abortion
A resounding victory for abortion rights in Kansas is bolstering Democrats' confidence that the issue will help them win close midterm races in several key states.
The big picture: Tuesday night’s results — an 18-point loss for a proposal to strip abortion rights out of the state's constitution — yielded new evidence that abortion can push swing voters toward Democrats and mobilize the liberal base.
- Abortion now often ranks as the second most important issue in national polls, after economic concerns. It has particular resonance in battleground states where access hangs in the balance.
What they're saying: In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Senate, used the Kansas vote as an new avenue to attack his GOP rival Mehmet Oz, who opposes abortion rights.
- “Here in Pennsylvania, Republicans want to do the same thing radical GOP politicians attempted to do in Kansas," Fetterman said. “I will protect abortion rights. Dr. Oz will take them away. It’s that simple.”
- President Biden, who issued an executive order Wednesday to protect people's ability to travel out of their home states to access abortion, said Kansas' voters had sent a "powerful signal" for November.
The big picture: Democrats are confident that Republicans who take the most hardline positions on abortion — like banning the procedure even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger — will face a political backlash.
- In the Pennsylvania governor's race, Republican Doug Mastriano has called for banning all abortions. Democrat Josh Shapiro has focused his campaign on protecting abortion rights.
- In Michigan, Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon has said she supports a 1931 law criminalizing abortion, and that protecting the life of mother should be the only exception. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been urging county prosecutors not to enforce the ban.
- In Arizona, the GOP's Senate nominee, Blake Masters, has said he supports a federal personhood law banning abortion. He has also questioned Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruling that ensures a right to use contraception.
- In Wisconsin, an 1849 law banning all abortions is now in place after the Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, called a special session of the legislature to reverse the ban, while his Republican opponents support the law.
- A Marquette Law poll conducted in July found a majority of Wisconsin voters would support a candidate keeping abortion legal, while just one-third favored a candidate who would strictly limit abortion.
Zoom out: The Kansas referendum proved to be a huge motivator for the state's Democratic voters, who turned out at high levels and stood in lines for an otherwise sleepy August primary.
- In Johnson County — suburban Kansas City — more than 242,000 votes were cast Tuesday. That's close to the historically high voter turnout in the 2018 midterms. If that can be replicated in other suburbs around the U.S., it could make a difference in crucial contests up and down the ballot.