The question for Democrats isn't whether a ruling striking down Roe will be a shock to the electorate, it's whether the issue can galvanize enough voters to blunt the effects of an otherwise restless electorate amid inflationary pressure, an ongoing pandemic, and global upheaval.
At stake are two key voting groups: presidential-year Democrats who might typically skip a midterm vote, and female suburban swing voters, who helped flip the House Democratic in 2018 by casting protest votes against Trump's Republican Party.
“The decision will help motivate our base,” Josh Ulibarri, a Democratic pollster, told Politico. “I see no data, no focus group, no survey where Republicans win on the abortion fight. We win it handily. But is that more powerful than when a voter looks at their receipt when they check out at Target?”
Key to turning out Democratic base voters and keeping suburban women engaged is making sure the decision stays top of mind for them through November.
“We’re not going to be able to keep it in the national news, but we’re going to put a lot of money on paid advertising—on TV, on digital ads, on mail, on radio—and in key places across the country, and that’s how this issue will matter,” said Stephanie Schriock, former president of EMILY’s List, which works to get pro-choice women elected to office. EMILY's List and several other abortion rights groups have already dedicated $150 million to that cause.
But that effort will also include local education campaigns and earned media in states where Republicans race to pass the most extreme abortion bans possible. In fact, part of the overall challenge will be making sure that voters know how the ruling affects laws in their states.
“The media strategy must include educating voters on what this means to make it more real for them, making it a steady drumbeat of local stories about what their state legislatures are doing,” explained Democratic pollster Molly Murphy.
Why Wisconsin is so important with state Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler on Daily Kos Elections’ The Downballot podcast
The broader Democratic apparatus is also gearing up for the fight. According to Politico, House Democrats are polling the issue in every district, prepping fundraising emails, and cutting clips of GOP candidates endorsing extreme abortion bans without rape or incest exceptions. The Democratic National Committee is coordinating trainings on messaging for state parties and campaign staff.
The Democratic Governor's Association (DGA) is focusing its efforts on states where abortion could be entirely banned. A DGA affiliate in Pennsylvania just poured $6 million into its opening salvo against GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a far-right extremist who wants to ban abortion outright.
“I Want Abortion To End, Period," Mastriano said at a Facebook Live event the day after the Supreme Court's draft ruling on Roe was leaked.
“We will be using every tool in the toolbox to tell this story,” said Heather Williams, executive director at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “We know that Roe is not the only issue [in the midterms], but Roe is a motivator … and we definitely see that voters who may be only presidential-year voters — that Roe falling certainly gives them additional motivation and urgency.”
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