Cover Photo: (AP News | Charlie Riedel)
The 2023 general elections held on Tuesday, October 7 was a significant success for the Democratic Party as abortion rights remained a key issue for voters. Their election wins come as a surprise accounting for the low approval ratings of President Joe Biden.
Breaking down the key takeaways, Ohio voters approved two ballot measures by a majority of around 56%. Among voters between 18 and 29 years old, an estimated 77% voted for Ohio Issue 1, otherwise known as “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” including most Republicans.
Ohio voters legalized recreational cannabis as well with Ohio Issue 2, indicating that abortion rights and legalized marijuana are two vital policy positions of Democrats that could see further success in other future state ballot measures.
Abortion rights equally backed the reelection of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in Kentucky, a deep-red state and Trump stronghold. Beshear ran his campaign on reproductive rights in staunch opposition to his challenger, Attorney General of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron.
Beshear’s victory signifies that Democrats can win seats with quality candidates even in Republican-leaning states or swing states if candidates focus their campaigns on these key policy positions.
Moreover, following Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin's push for an abortion ban after 15 weeks with no exceptions, Democrats swept both houses of the State Legislature in Virginia through campaigns on reproductive rights.
This resulted in a huge loss for Youngkin and other Virginia Republicans who failed to secure their desired GOP trifecta after spending much effort and money into one of the most expensive and competitive legislative races this year. Democrats now have better access to block Youngkin’s policy agenda.
Reeling from their losses, conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity called on the Republican party to shift its policy position on abortion rights, admitting that reliance on the anti-abortion movement is “untenable” and an “electoral disaster” for Republican electability.
Overall, analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that in thirty-eight special elections held this year, Democrats generally outperformed the partisan lean by an average of 10 percent, almost double the average of previous elections.
Under scrutiny, this suggests Democrats obtained unusually larger margins of victory in races held in solid Democratic-leaning areas and unusually smaller margins of defeat in races held in Republican-leaning areas. These results were surprising considering the low approval ratings of incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden.
Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, while Democrats can celebrate the momentum they gained, it should be noted that neither Biden nor Trump’s names appeared on any ballots this election. While Biden’s low approval ratings could mean little to his ability to win reelection in 2024, it’s possible that polling indicates voters have issues with Biden personally.
In efforts to maintain their political advantage, Democrats should remain cautious as reproductive rights were truly the biggest winner of the night. If Republicans do decide to change their anti-abortion strategy ahead of the next elections they might improve their odds.
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