It still appears the influence of abortion on the midterm elections was overstated

Election 2022 Vermont
Lindsey Britt, of Brattleboro, Vt., stands outside the Brattleboro, Vt., polling station located at the American Legion holding a sign to encourage voters to vote yes on Article 22 during the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Article 22 is to make abortion a constitutional right in Vermont. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP) Kristopher Radder/AP

It still appears the influence of abortion on the midterm elections was overstated

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Democrats are taking victory laps over their better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections, but it isn’t clear that the Democratic strategy of obsessing over abortion made much of a difference in most of the country.

It would be easy to assume abortion was a winning issue when looking at statewide abortion propositions, with abortion proposals winning in California, Michigan, and Vermont, while abortion restrictions failed in Kentucky and are trailing in Montana. Kansas voters had rejected an amendment that would remove the right to an abortion from the state constitution. When given a direct vote, voters default to being too permissive rather than too restrictive on abortion.

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This isn’t exactly a surprise, but Democrats also insisted that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would help boost Democratic candidates and drag down Republicans as well. On the whole, that doesn’t appear to be true. In 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (around six weeks of pregnancy). He cruised to reelection against Democrat Stacey Abrams, beating her by nearly 8 points after winning by less than 2 points against her four years ago.

Texas’s abortion law was the subject of campaigns outside of Texas in 2021, but it made no difference then, and it made no difference Tuesday in the Lone Star State. Gov. Greg Abbott signed that bill into law and then went on to crush Beto O’Rourke by double digits. Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) also signed a heartbeat bill into law in 2019. While the Ohio Senate race was mildly competitive, DeWine won by more than 25 points.

If abortion were going to be a pivotal issue anywhere, you’d think it would be in New York. And yet Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin came much closer to knocking off Gov. Kathy Hochul than anyone would have expected. Moreover, Republican candidates dominated competitive House races across the state.

The only place where abortion may have made a dent in major races is in Michigan. But even then, it is questionable. Voters who named abortion as their most important issue made up 45% of the electorate in Michigan, according to CNN’s exit polls. CNN’s 2018 exit polls don’t have a perfect analog for this, but 44% of the electorate named “health care” as the most important issue in the state in 2018. Voters broke for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the same rate for those issues in 2018 (74%-23%) and on Tuesday (75%-24%).

The biggest change in Michigan came on immigration, which fell from 19% naming it the most important issue in 2018 to 6% on Tuesday. Gun policy dropped from 14% to 8%, and the economy (21%) rose only slightly in prevalence with voters concerned about inflation (29%).

Nationally, when compared to the 2020 presidential election, abortion was only slightly more important. In 2020, voters who said abortion should be “legal in all cases” made up 25% of the electorate and broke for President Joe Biden 80%-18%. That rose to 29% of the electorate and an 86%-11% result on Tuesday.

But voters who said abortion should be “legal in most cases” rose from 26% in 2020 to 30% on Tuesday, and those voters shifted more toward the GOP, with Biden winning them 68%-30% in 2020 to Democrats dropping to a 60%-38% lead in 2022. On top of that, the share that said abortion should be “illegal in most cases” rose from 25% to 26%, and Republicans ran up the score, rising from a 72%-27% lead among those voters to a 90%-9% win.

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Abortion may have shifted some races at the margins, but it was nowhere near the silver bullet Democrats thought it was going to be. It appears that the GOP’s underperformance was the result of poor candidates and a weak campaign cycle, not some righteous anger fomented by Democrats over Roe.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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