Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Democrats Are Running on Abortion Everywhere--Even in Kentucky

One of the three gubernatorial elections this year is in deep-red Kentucky, a state Donald Trump won in 2022 by 26 points. There, Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) is running for reelection. On a pro-choice platform. Virginia Democrats running for reelection to the state legislature are also emphasizing their pro-choice positions. An Ohio ballot measure that would have made it well nigh impossible to enshrine reproductive rights in the state Constitution lost big time. All over the country, even in purple and red states, Democrats are making elections about abortion—and winning. The repeal of Roe v. Wade is the gift that keeps on giving. The anti-abortion forces got what they wished for. Maybe next time they will be more careful about what they wish for.

This focus on abortion will continue though the 2024 general election. Amanda Litman, cofounder of Run for Something, a group that recruits and supports downballot Democrats, said: "It's a turnout driver, so it would be stupid not to bring it up." Making emotional ads about abortion is easy. Beshear is running this ad. It has a young women talking directly into the camera and saying she was raped by her stepfather when she was 12 after years of sexual abuse. Having her stepfather's baby as a 12-year-old would be unthinkable.

In Ohio, an amendment to the state Constitution that would enshrine the right to an abortion is on the ballot in November. Democrats there are running the same playbook as Beshear: direct-to-camera testimonials from women who got pregnant talking about how an abortion ban would have destroyed their lives. In Virginia, 40% of all ads the Democrats have cut are about abortion. Virginia Democrats across the board see this as the key to holding the state Senate and flipping the House of Delegates.

It is hard for the other side to counter ads like this. Maybe one saying: pregnancies from rape are part of God's plan. No, wait. Sorry, that was Indiana. And it didn't even work there. There really isn't any answer that is going to move women (or young men who have no interest in being fathers right now). All of these votes will be closely watched. If the anti-abortion forces fail everywhere, Republican candidates next year are going to be struggling to find a position that won't doom them.

Even Donald Trump sees trouble ahead. He was responsible for nominating three strongly anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, laying the groundwork for the repeal of Roe. Now he sees that being against abortion could doom him in the general election. But suddenly being pro-choice—as he was for years before running for president—might be the one thing that could cause him to lose the Republican nomination. So his plan is to make nonsensical statements, like this one: "I would sit down with both sides and I'd negotiate something and we'll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years." Of course, this would never work, but he hopes enough voters are foolish enough to believe it. He has also called the 6-week abortion ban that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed "a terrible thing and a terrible mistake." This is making some anti-abortion zealots a bit nervous, although so far there haven't been any major desertions. But Trump knows he has to be careful because if he campaigns in the general election as being neutral on the issue, some evangelical voters may get the message—and stay home on Election Day. (V)

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