Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The political potency of abortion rights proved more powerful than the drag of President Biden’s approval ratings in Tuesday’s off-year elections, as Ohioans enshrined a right to abortion in their state’s constitution, and Democrats took control of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly while holding on to Kentucky’s governorship.

The night’s results showed the durability of Democrats’ political momentum since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion in 2022. It may also, at least temporarily, stem the latest round of Democratic fretting from a series of polls demonstrating Mr. Biden’s political weakness.

After a strong midterm showing last year, a blowout victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race in April and a series of special election wins, Democrats head into Mr. Biden’s re-election contest with the wind at their backs. The question for the party is how they can translate that momentum to Mr. Biden, who remains unpopular while others running on his agenda have prevailed.

Here are key takeaways from Tuesday:

  • There’s nothing like abortion to aid Democrats and Biden.
  • In Virginia, a Republican rising star faces an eclipse.
  • A Democrat can win in deep-red Kentucky, if his name is Andy Beshear.
  • Attacks on transgender rights didn’t work.
  • In Ohio, voters back both abortion and weed.
  • Where abortion wasn’t an issue, a Republican won easily.
  • Rhode Island sends a Biden aide to the House.

Democratic officials have been saying for months that the fight for abortion rights has become the issue that best motivates Democrats to vote, and is also the issue that persuades the most Republicans to vote for Democrats.

On Tuesday, they found new evidence to bolster their case in victories by Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, who criticized his opponent’s defense of the state’s near-total ban; legislative candidates in Virginia who opposed the 15-week abortion ban proposed by the Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin; and, above all, the Ohio referendum establishing a right to abortion access. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate who ran on abortion rights, Daniel McCaffery, also won, giving Democrats a 5-2 majority.

Abortion is now so powerful as a Democratic issue that Everytown, the gun control organization founded and funded by Michael Bloomberg, used its TV ads in Virginia to promote abortion rights before it discussed gun violence.

The anti-abortion Democrat who ran for governor of Mississippi, Brandon Presley, underperformed expectations, losing by twice the margin that his party’s nominee did in 2019.

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