Image Credits: Graham Moomaw/Virginia Mercury.

Rachel Cohen of Vox has an excellent article on how abortion politics played out in Tuesday’s elections, which saw the Democrats exceed expectations nationally, almost across the board. It’s important to understand that the Republicans came into this election well aware that their position on reproductive rights was hurting them. They tried out new messaging (and policy) on limiting access to abortion in the hope that they could neutralize the issue. It clearly didn’t work.

The most important test case was in Virginia where the GOP hoped they had a Goldilocks solution.

[Gov. Glenn] Youngkin and anti-abortion groups bet that if they could win in Virginia by running emphatically on a 15-week abortion ban, something they cast as a “reasonable” and “consensus” position, then they could prove to Republicans nationwide that abortion need not be a political loser for their party. (The ban, which they called a “limit,” also would have exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.) They also hoped that staking out this position would allow them to more easily change the subject to topics they had advantages on, like crime and the economy.

The Democrats ran hard against this proposal and not only kept their narrow Senate majority but won control of the House of Delegates.

The Republicans lost the abortion argument explicitly in Ohio where voters enacted reproductive freedom into the state Constitution. But they took it on the chin in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, too.

In the Keystone State, Democrat Daniel McCaffery defeated Republican Carolyn Carluccio for a seat on the Supreme Court.

McCaffery’s win is the latest in a string of victories for Democrats running on an abortion rights platform following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade and ending national abortion rights protections. His campaign was supported by state and national reproductive rights groups that spent millions on advertising and grassroots efforts in the highly competitive swing state.

In the Garden State, the Democrats overcame the scandal surrounding senior U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and actually picked up legislative seats.

Republicans — benefiting from the unpopularity of President Joe Biden, the collapse of two major offshore wind projects and backlash to LGBTQ-friendly policies in public schools — had been hopeful at winning a majority in the state Senate or the Assembly for the first time in more than 20 years…

…Democrats also took on the culture wars by targeting Republicans on abortion rights — an issue that has galvanized the Democratic base since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe last year…

…Facing political headwinds and what appeared to be a motivated Republican base, New Jersey Democrats not only managed to hold onto their state legislative majorities Tuesday night but expand them.

And in Kentucky, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear defied conventional wisdom and ran aggressively on abortion rights. He was easily reelected even as Republicans swept all the lower offices. But, as the New York Times notes, those down ballot Democrats “did not run on abortion.”

Another Democrat who didn’t run on reproductive rights is Brandon Presley who was seeking to oust Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves from office.

Mississippi’s governor’s race was the exception to this off-year election’s rule on abortion: The incumbent governor, Mr. Reeves, and his Democratic challenger, Mr. Presley, ran as staunch opponents of abortion rights. And in that race, the Democrat lost.

You might think is was a foregone conclusion that a Democrat would lose in Mississippi, but the race was closely watched for a reason. The simple fact is that Presley did not meet expectations, and it’s possible he could have won if he’d taken Beshear’s approach to the abortion question. But GOP women who might have defected had no one supporting their bodily autonomy.

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