Messaging Abortion Rights in Swing States Will Determine Who Controls the Senate in 2021
With the Democrats blocked from codifying the protections provided to women by the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, they must now turn their attention to organizing state-level elections this coming November. But not in all states — only in those with reasonably winnable seats.
The Democrats’ strategy of relying on national polls, even accurate and reliable, would continue to lead to defeats in the Senate. As I argued in To Save Roe in Congress, the D’s Must Change Their Strategy, that strategy fails to target critical races that can sustain or enlarge the Democrat’s presence in Congress. It also fails to recognize that being pro-abortion does not mean the same thing to all who oppose banning abortion.
The D’s must consider how the abortion issue affects the Democrats to keep control of the Senate. They need to protect four incumbents listed by the non-partisan Roll Call website as the most vulnerable Democrats to lose in November: Mark Kelly in Arizona, Cortez Masto in Nevada, Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. Biden won all four states only by slim margins.
If the status of all Senate seats is not changed, losing just one of these races will turn control of the Senate over to the Republicans. To obtain a margin of safety, the Democrats must gain seats. They have a reasonable chance of taking three seats from the Republicans. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson holds the most likely seat. Two incumbent Republicans chose not to run for reelection: Ohio’s moderate Republican Rob Portman and Pennsylvania’s conservative Pat Toomey.
Although an abortion ban will happen almost immediately in four of these seven states, Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Wisconsin, a national future prohibition would apply to all states. That is a real possibility if the Republicans gain 60% of the seats in the Senate or if the filibuster is removed by the Republicans. With they increase their seats by one above their current number they could amend the filibuster rule without Democrats blocking them.
Democrats must frame their abortion position as protecting constitutionally protected personal rights. However, embracing the right to have an abortion any time before birth may lose…