Monday, July 15, 2024

On Tuesday, voters in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi, and other states will participate in off-year elections that will provide insight into the impact of abortion on President Biden’s low approval ratings as politicians gear up for the upcoming presidential election. The results could shape the Democratic Party’s stance on key issues like abortion, which was a highlight in a recent New York Times/Siena poll that showed Donald J. Trump leading Biden in five critical swing states.

One important race to watch is the battle between abortion access and Biden’s unpopularity in Virginia and Kentucky. All 140 seats in Virginia’s General Assembly are up for grabs, with Republican governor Glenn Youngkin hoping to secure total Republican control of Richmond by capturing the State Senate. Democrats are campaigning on abortion rights, warning that GOP control would lead to the end of abortion access in the Southeastern state. Youngkin is proposing a compromise that national Republicans believe could be a winning message: a ban on abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Democrats argue that this is a ploy, but they face the challenge of overcoming Biden’s unpopularity. A similar dynamic is playing out in Kentucky, where Democrats have heavily relied on the abortion issue to tarnish the image of Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, who has defended Kentucky’s total abortion ban as the current state attorney general. Incumbent Democratic governor Andy Beshear remains popular, but his party affiliation may be a liability in a state that overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2020.

In Ohio, a referendum to establish a right to abortion under the state constitution will test where even Republicans stand on the issue. Abortion rights groups have had success with ballot measures since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, even in historically conservative states like Kansas. However, abortion opponents have scored some victories leading up to this referendum. The amendment in question would establish a right to make reproductive decisions while allowing the state to ban abortion after viability unless necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health. However, the ballot language provided by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who opposes abortion, frames the amendment in a way that suggests it allows abortion at any stage of pregnancy regardless of viability. Both sides have accused each other of spreading misinformation and using underhanded tactics.

In Mississippi, the central issues of the gubernatorial race are the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and a public corruption scandal involving misspent federal funds. Incumbent Republican governor Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley both oppose abortion but have not made it a central issue in their campaigns. Presley’s strong challenge has been fueled by his push for Medicaid expansion and his criticism of the corruption scandal. While Reeves has not been directly implicated in the scandal, he fired an investigator after they issued a subpoena that could have revealed details about prominent Mississippians’ involvement. Reeves has the advantage of incumbency, party affiliation, and the endorsement of Trump, who won the state by a significant margin in 2020.

Aside from abortion, voters will also decide on other ballot initiatives. In Ohio, there will be a vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which would make Ohio the 24th state to do so. This could potentially put pressure on Congress to ease restrictions on the cannabis industry. In Texas, voters will decide on 14 constitutional amendments, including one that would prohibit the state from imposing a wealth tax. This measure has been supported by liberal activists and prominent Democrats like Elizabeth Warren as a way to tap into the wealth of billionaires. Texans will also decide whether to raise the mandatory retirement age of state judges from 75 to 79.

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