President Biden and Democrats are framing the midterm election as a referendum on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. They are hoping abortion energizes their dispirited voters.
The end of Roe sparked an explosion of political activity and protests. Democrats are tapping into the emotional fallout with appeals for support and donations while warning the conservative justices could soon target same-sex marriage and access to contraception.
“I think it is very clear to me that the politics favor Democrats and the greatest indicator of that is Democrats are the ones out there vocally taking this issue on, putting it front and center, and conservatives are not doing that to the same extent,” said Joseph Zepecki, a Wisconsin-based Democratic strategist.
Mr. Zepecki said the issue resonates differently with voters than worries over inflation and the rising costs of gasoline and groceries.
“The right to bodily autonomy is higher up on the scale of concerns than if you are paying 50 cents more at the gas pump this week,” he said. “Within that hierarchy of how are these issues impacting us, I do think, without dismissing the economic challenges faced by families, this hits different.”
However, others say economic woes overshadow abortion for most voters and some Democrats’ stance on abortion will be proven out of step with mainstream America.
The consensus before the Supreme Court kicked abortion laws back to the states was that Democrats were going to have a tough time defending their slim majorities in Congress.
Since the Civil War, the president’s party has stumbled in 37 of 40 midterm elections.
In a post-Roe analysis, Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said the president’s party benefited from an “extraordinary occurrence” that helped drive the president’s popularity in 1934, 1998 and 2002.
Democrats hope the abortion ruling could be that type of game-changer.
That could be a stretch given Mr. Biden’s approval numbers have slipped. He has been plagued by concerns over inflation hitting a 40-year-high, and the impact Russia’s war on Ukraine has had on the cost of fuel.
Still, the abortion ruling provides Democrats with a glimmer of hope because a majority of the public disagrees with the decision.
“The Roe reversal is such a shock to Democrats that it likely will spur increased turnout in November,” said Darrell M. West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution Governance Studies. “Already, there are polls showing Democrat interest in voting is much higher than that of the GOP.”
“The big question is whether Democrats can maintain this fervor over the next five months given all the other things happening around the world,” he said.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Monday found that 56% of respondents said they disagreed with the ruling and said worry other rights could be on the chopping block.
About 62% of registered voters said the Supreme Court’s decision will make them more motivated to vote in November, including 78% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans and 53% of independents.
A CBS national poll of adults released over the weekend found women disagree with the ruling by 67% to 33%. And 58% of adults support passing a federal law making abortion legal.
A majority of voters also viewed the decision as a “step backward for America,” with 83% of Democrats, 62% of independents and 22% of Republicans disapproving of the ruling.
Democrats are leaning into the issue, pouncing on the opportunity to draw contrasts with their rivals on the issue.
Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection, on Monday fired off a fundraising appeal warning that one of his rivals “wants to go even further and pass a national ban on abortion in all cases — no exceptions.”
“The stakes were high before,” Mr. Kelly said. “But after this decision, it’s more critical than ever that we win this race, because the Senate is the final defense against abortion being banned in the United States.”