How might the battle over abortion influence this year’s election?

Conventional wisdom had this year shaping up to be very good for Republicans when voters hit the polls this November.

Economic and inflation concerns, along with the fact that the party out of power typically does well in midterm elections anyway, has the GOP in striking distance of controlling both chambers of Congress.

Will abortion change that?

“It’s pretty strange for a political environment to totally turn on a dime,” noted Kyle Kondik, the managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. “But, this is also a very significant development.”

The Cook Political Report currently has two Virginia House Democrats facing competitive races locked in what are considered toss ups: Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria. That’s in addition to the eight seats held by Democrats that it considers to either lean or go solidly toward Republicans at a time when Democrats have a much smaller margin.

However, even though majority of voters are typically supportive of some abortion rights, Kondik said the majority view is a lot more nuanced than what either political party espouses. But some swing states also have old laws banning abortion in all cases on the books, and they could go back into effect depending on the final decision that’s rendered.

“It’s very easy to imagine those being big issues,” Kondik said, “and it could put maybe a little more focus on state politics. Because in a world without Roe v. Wade, presumably, these things would be settled in the states.”

It could also potentially motivate more Democratic voters to go to the polls.

“Sometimes in a midterm election you just see more of the opposition party’s base come out than the president’s party’s base,” said Kondik. “So maybe abortion rights helps with turnout on the Democratic side. There are also some persuadable voters who, maybe they were planning to vote Republican because of some economic issues or inflation or what have you, maybe abortion changes their mind. Maybe it doesn’t.”

Another thing to consider: The decision that was leaked was just a draft. The final decision could change in substance and in style.

“The fact that this draft opinion came out, maybe it blunts the impact of the actual opinion whenever it comes, particularly if the opinion is not as strong as the one that leaked,” said Kondik. “Then the reporting around it would be, ‘Well, it doesn’t go quite as far as the initial Alito draft.’ Maybe this also doesn’t become as big an issue because in some ways we’re reacting to it before it’s actually happened because of this leak.”

“We can’t really make any assumptions at this point,” he said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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