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Democrats Launch Massive Negative Ad Campaign Against GOP On Abortion

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Democrats have zeroed in on the highest issue to pummel Republicans with of their quest to win the 2022 midterm elections: the tip of Roe v. Wade.

In dozens of ads backed by tens of tens of millions of dollars, Democratic candidates, party committees and affiliated groups are attacking Republicans on the difficulty of abortion in key battleground races that may determine control of Congress, governorships and state legislatures.

Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general and the Democratic candidate for governor, opened his $16.9 million fall promoting campaign with an ad hitting Republican Doug Mastriano’s anti-abortion views as a threat to business investment within the state. Political committees connected to the Democratic Governors Association have slammed GOP candidates in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Latest Mexico and Rhode Island for his or her opposition to abortion rights. In Texas, former congressman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke opened his general election campaign with ads hitting GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s work to enact essentially the most restrictive and punitive anti-abortion laws within the country.

Within the fight for Congress, Democrats’ fundamental super PAC supporting House candidates rolled out ads hitting eight Republicans in crucial battleground districts for his or her positions against abortion access. And after spending tens of millions on ads this summer attacking 4 GOP Senate candidates for his or her abortion positions, the party’s chief Senate super PAC launched its latest salvo on Tuesday with a $2.3 million ad buy hammering Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters for opposing abortion access with no exceptions.

The ever-increasing ad avalanche on abortion signals that the conservative-majority Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the nearly 50-year-old right to an abortion has flipped the difficulty on its head, forcing Republicans to reply for his or her unpopular anti-abortion positions as they at the moment are actually becoming law.

“The threat to abortion rights was theoretical, but people now understand and consider the true impact — that candidates need to ban abortion and might ban abortion — they usually are scared they usually consider them,” said Jenny Lawson, president of Planned Parenthood Votes, the campaign arm of the pro-abortion rights group that has promised to spend $50 million on the midterm elections.

A Real-World Test Case

The choice to make the tip of Roe the central negative attack line of the midterms follows from private and non-private polling showing that the Republican position on the difficulty is broadly and increasingly unpopular.

There have also been actual elections to check the difficulty’s salience, just like the landslide defeat of a referendum stripping state constitutional abortion rights protection in Kansas on Aug. 2 and, more directly, Democrat Pat Ryan’s win within the Latest York Nineteenth Congressional District special election on Aug. 24.

Democrat Pat Ryan won a surprise victory within the special election for Latest York’s Nineteenth Congressional District after running heavily on his support for abortion rights.

Mary Altaffer via Associated Press

Ryan’s campaign promoting focused negative attacks on his GOP opponent Marc Molinaro over the difficulty of abortion. In beating Molinaro, a moderate who avoided the subject, Ryan outperformed President Joe Biden’s 2020 lead to the district and showed how the difficulty worked against Republicans who weren’t even essentially the most vocally anti-abortion. He showed a path forward for Democrats running within the type of battleground districts Republicans have to win in the event that they’re going to take control of the House.

“That was really an incredible real-world test case of how this was going to perform since it was very clearly a difficulty on the airwaves and, furthermore, it was not even essentially the most extreme case of an anti-choice Republican that we’re going to see here,” said Vriti Jain, deputy executive director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Ryan’s win within the NY-19 special election showed that the post-Dobbs political environment was different than past elections when Democrats tried to energise supporters by claiming Republicans would take away abortion rights.

Lower than one yr earlier, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, running for his second non-consecutive term as Virginia governor, tried and didn’t rally opposition to Republican Glenn Youngkin by claiming Youngkin would ban abortion if elected.

“I feel that the hard sell we had with voters is that they didn’t consider that Roe was going to go away with no consideration,” David Bergstrom, communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, said. “And now people see that that’s not the case.”

“The threat to abortion rights was theoretical, but people now understand and consider the true impact — that candidates need to ban abortion and might ban abortion — they usually are scared.”

– Jenny Lawson, president of Planned Parenthood Votes

There could also be races where Democrats concentrate on other issues when there may be much more salient ammunition for a negative attack, akin to GOP Ohio House candidate J.R. Majewski’s attendance on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

There are also some states, like Nevada and Latest Hampshire, that Democrats view as having historic pro-choice electorates and anticipate the difficulty working exceptionally well. Actually, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) launched her first general election ad attacking GOP nominee Don Bolduc on abortion on Wednesday.

Other than these slight differences in races and state politics, Democratic operatives see the abortion issue working across demographic groups in almost any race.

“In qualitative work we’ve done, people bring it up unprompted as a priority,” Jain said. “What has surprised us is just not that it pops in certain groups. It pops in every group.”

Women Driving The Response

Despite the widespread resonance of abortion as a difficulty, some evidence suggests that female voters are disproportionately driving the post-Dobbs thermostatic response against anti-abortion politics. In Kansas, women accounted for 69% of latest voter registration between the day the Dobbs decision was released and the state’s vote on its anti-abortion referendum, in response to research by Tom Bonier, the CEO of the political consulting firm TargetSmart.

This statistic was “more striking than any single election statistic I can recall discovering throughout my profession,” Bonior wrote in a Sept. 3 Latest York Times op-ed.

Most of the ads run by Democrats and their affiliated groups feature women speaking on to the camera about how GOP-backed abortion bans threaten their personal freedom and will have or did threaten their lives after they needed abortions.

Days after Latest Hampshire’s Sept. 13 primary election, Women Vote!, the super PAC run by the pro-choice women’s group EMILY’s List, went on air with a $1.2 million ad buy hitting GOP Senate candidate Bolduc on abortion. The ad contains a woman who had complications while pregnant and had an abortion to avoid wasting her life.

Noting that Bolduc said that folks should “rejoice” over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, she says, “My decision saved my life, and Don Bolduc shouldn’t give you the chance to take that away.”

In an ad launched by Senate Majority PAC, the fundamental super PAC for Senate Democrats, and VoteVets, a Democratic Party-aligned veterans organization, a female veteran whose husband died in service calls Arizona Republican Masters’ anti-abortion views the “type of extremism and government control [that] is the alternative of what we fought for.”

In an ad run by the DSCC, Jennifer, a lady from Mesa, Arizona, recounts the abortion she had at 18 after her abusive partner impregnated her.

“Blake Masters has no idea what I went through, and he has no business making that call for me or any woman,” she says.

And in Georgia, an ad jointly run by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and a subsidiary of the Democratic Governors Association features multiple women calling the abortion ban enacted by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp “an attack on the ladies of Georgia” that would lead to women being “investigated and imprisoned for a miscarriage.”

‘Their Own Words’

Since Ryan’s win and the opening of the post-Labor Day fall campaign season, the variety of ads targeting GOP candidates on abortion has increased dramatically. And Democrats have much riper targets than candidates like Molinaro, as many Republicans have publicly expressed opinions on abortion far outside of the mainstream.

In Arizona, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Senate Majority PAC and VoteVets have all run ads hitting Masters for calling support for abortion rights “demonic” and stating that “we should always go further” than repealing Roe and enact a “federal personhood amendment” to ban abortion nationwide.

“‘My body, my alternative,’ is ridiculous nonsense,” Mastriano is quoted saying in ads run by Shapiro and a Democratic Governors Association-affiliated PAC called Putting Pennsylvania First. These ads also highlight Mastriano’s opposition to exceptions that might allow abortions within the case of rape, incest or endangerment to a pregnant person’s life.

In an ad that launched on Sept. 8, Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock knocks GOP candidate Herschel Walker for his response to an issue asking whether he supports any exceptions to an abortion ban. “Not at once I don’t,” Walker says.

TV ads from Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Senate Majority PAC and Women Vote! are running GOP candidate Adam Laxalt’s statements referring to Roe as a “joke” and the choice overturning it as a “historic victory.”

In North Carolina, Duty & Honor PAC, a subsidiary of Senate Majority PAC, hit GOP Senate candidate Rep. Ted Budd for calling the tip of Roe a “historic victory,” while Women Vote! put $2.7 million behind an ad noting that Budd co-sponsored a federal abortion ban bill in 2021.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ran an ad hitting GOP candidate Tim Michels for telling an area TV interview that he supports the state’s Nineteenth-century abortion ban that doesn’t provide exceptions for rape or incest.

Similarly, within the Michigan gubernatorial race, Republican Tudor Dixon is being hammered for openly stating, on camera, her support for the 1931 abortion ban law that would go into effect within the state. That law provides no exceptions for rape or incest, and when asked if she was going to support such exceptions, Dixon replied, “I’m not.”

“‘My body, my alternative,’ is ridiculous nonsense,” GOP Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano said about his support for banning abortion without exception.

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a Michigan congressional race, Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee went on the air on Wednesday hitting his GOP opponent, Paul Junge, for saying that Roe v. Wade provided “made-up rights” to women.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat, ran ads against her Republican opponent Yesli Vega in Virginia’s seventh congressional district for saying that ladies can’t get pregnant after being raped and supporting a nationwide abortion ban.

An ad from Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) shows footage of Republican nominee Zach Nunn raising a hand in a GOP primary debate agreeing that each one abortions within the country needs to be banned with no exceptions for rape, incest or protecting the lifetime of the mother.

Within the face of this ad onslaught, plenty of the GOP candidates have attempted to revise their positions.

Masters scrubbed his website of any mention of his support for a federal personhood amendment and his endorsement of jailing doctors who perform abortions. So did Republican congressional candidates running in Colorado, Michigan and North Carolina, and gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota and Oregon.

A few of these candidates have even released ads touting a unique position on abortion than they previously held. Masters said that ads showing his actual prior statements on abortion are lies. In Minnesota and Latest Mexico, Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Jensen and Mark Ronchetti, who previously expressed strong anti-abortion views, claim that they are not looking for to vary their states’ laws allowing abortion. In response to ads run by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley, who previously praised Texas’ anti-abortion laws, guarantees that she wouldn’t support an abortion ban in multiple ads.

But these walk-backs might be hard to hold off, as the general public is well aware that Republicans oppose abortion rights and have for a long time.

“The credibility of the attack is partially because that is something that Republicans have been clamoring for for 50 years,” Bergstrom said. “So, [voters] consider Republicans are generally inclined to support these policies. And likewise, we’ve them on video and audio saying it, and saying it repeatedly.”

A Nationwide Abortion Ban

Not all Republican candidates have provided video and audio recordings of their unpopular views on abortion for Democratic ad-makers. That doesn’t mean that they’ve been spared in attack ads. As an alternative, Democrats are attacking these Republicans for potentially providing votes for a Republican House or Senate majority that would then pass a national abortion ban.

“If Don Bolduc and congressional Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate, they might push for a nationwide abortion ban,” Hassan’s first general election ad states.

The identical attack has already surfaced within the Pennsylvania Senate race between Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, and in a number of House races.

“With Roe v. Wade overturned, Republican senators need to ban abortion nationwide. That would make doctors and nurses criminals, they usually need Mehmet Oz to do it,” an ad from Planned Parenthood Votes says.

A House Majority PAC ad targeting John Duarte, the Republican candidate in California’s thirteenth Congressional District, says that “if he gets to Congress, Duarte will vote for partisan leaders in Washington who’ve pledged a nationwide abortion ban.”

A similar ad from the DCCC targeting George Logan, the Republican running in Connecticut’s fifth Congressional District, says Logan “pledged to back his party leaders, who would outlaw abortion nationwide.”

Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) has already run two ads backed by six-figure buys hitting her Republican opponent April Becker for being endorsed by the anti-abortion group Nevada Right to Life, which supports a nationwide abortion ban. Under fire, Becker clumsily backtracked her abortion position on Thursday by claiming she would oppose an abortion ban because she thinks it could be unconstitutional, a position that has angered anti-abortion allies.

This echoes the attack the DCCC and Ryan launched against Molinaro within the NY-19 special election race. That ad targeted Molinaro’s opposition to abortion, although he tried not to speak concerning the issue, and noted that he would vote for Republican leaders who oppose abortion rights.

Democrats received some unexpected assist in tying Republicans to a prospective nationwide abortion ban on Tuesday when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and declared that Republicans would pass it if given control of Congress.

Graham’s bill gives air to Democratic claims that Republicans would pursue a nationwide ban and compelled GOP Senate candidates to state their support or opposition. Masters, Budd and Walker all backed the bill, while Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who has co-sponsored Graham’s previous nationwide abortion bans after 20 weeks, said the difficulty needs to be left to the states. Oz refused to say he was for it or against it, while Smiley and Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea said they were opposed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave further confirmation to the potency of Democrats’ abortion attack when he responded to Graham’s bill by saying he would “prefer this be handled on the state level.”

Based on the Democratic Party’s response to Graham’s nationwide ban, the torrent of attack ads on abortion will intensify over the remaining weeks of the election.

As Planned Parenthood Votes’ Lawson says, “We’ve got all the pieces to achieve and nothing to lose.”

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