The Sweep: How Will Abortion Play in the Midterms?
Special elections and an Arizona Republican's pivot offer clues.
Sarah’s out again this week, so you’re stuck with us!
Four Special Elections Dim GOP’s Hopes of a Red Wave
Gubernatorial races last fall left Republicans feeling pretty good about their chances of dominating the 2022 midterms. In Virginia, a state Biden won by 10 points in 2020, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe by roughly two points and became the first GOP candidate to win a statewide race in the Old Dominion in 12 years. And in New Jersey—a state Trump lost by 16 points in 2020—Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy only defeated his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by three points.
“I think there’s people who are potentially more interested in running than certainly there was yesterday morning,” a GOP operative working on Senate races told The Morning Dispatch a day after the Virginia and New Jersey races were called. “We need to hold on to the gains made among white working-class voters, we need to continue the trend of Hispanic voters coming to our side, and we need to win back some of the suburban voters that we’ve lost.”
Nearly a year later, the outlook isn’t as rosy for Republicans. FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has both parties roughly even on the generic ballot, and Democratic turnout in several special elections has been up since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The GOP’s long-anticipated red wave is looking “more like a ripple,” the Cook Political Report declared last week.
What gives? Candidate selection is weighing on Senate Republicans ahead of November, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted earlier this month. But it’s impossible to overstate how much abortion alone has upended expectations in the months since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.