A Predicted ‘Red Wave’ Crashed into Wall of Abortion Rights Support

The Republican Party declared there would be a “red wave” in the midterm elections. That red wave crashed into a wall of support for reproductive rights. 

A surge in turnout among people motivated by the erosion of abortion rights carried Democrats to victory in races for governor, Senate, attorney general, and state legislatures in this year’s midterm. 

It defied predictions that the issue had faded for voters in the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and obliterated the national constitutional right to an abortion.

Tuesday’s results likely ensure that millions of people will be able to make reproductive choices around abortion. 

It also bolsters progressives’ arguments that reproductive rights are a winning issue that Democrats and their allies should pursue aggressively in the years ahead.

The abortion-rights campaign prevailed in ballot measure fights in swing states like Michigan and conservative, red strongholds like Kentucky. 

Abortion’s impact was especially evident in two swing states — Pennsylvania and Michigan. In these states, Democrats in tight races at all levels of government won following campaigns that contrasted their opponents’ anti-abortion views with pledges to defend the procedure.

Candidates up and down the ballot in Pennsylvania benefited from voters concerned with preserving access. Democrat John Fetterman flipped a red Senate seat to blue, 36 percent of voters said abortion was the most important issue to them, compared to 29 percent for inflation. 

Michigan Democrats campaigned in opposition to the state’s 1931 near-total abortion ban and ran on newly drawn maps that made districts more competitive. They flipped control of the state Legislature for the first time in decades.

The most important issue for voters was soaring inflation, according to pre-election polls. But it barely outpaced abortion in the exit polls. Abortion was the most important to 27 percent of voters, and inflation was the key issue for 31 percent. 

About 60 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to both exit polls. 

Despite the likelihood of a divided government in Washington next year, assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said it’s clear voters “want leaders who stand up for reproductive freedom and defend women’s rights — leaders who will not allow women to be sidelined in our economy or singled out as second-class citizens.”

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