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Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022

In Michigan, Democrats targeted the Republican candidate for governor almost immediately after the primary with a television ad highlighting her opposition to abortion. without exceptions for rape or incest.

In Georgia, Democrats recently attacked the Republican governor in another television ad, in which women spoke anxiously about the specter of research and “criminalized.”

And in Arizona, the Republican nominees for both Senate and Governor were faced with several advertisements almost immediately after their primaries. calling them “dangerous” because of their anti-abortion positions.

Democrats across America are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor races that show how quickly abortion politics has shifted since the Supreme Court overthrown Roe v. Wade late. June.

With national protections for abortion rights suddenly gone and bans coming into effect in many states, senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically changed the 2022 landscape in their favor. They say it has not only reawakened the party’s progressive base, but has also created a wedge problem that could wring out independent voters and even some Republican women who believe abortion opponents have advanced too far.

In the wake of the ruling, Democrats see the potential to overturn the typical midterm election dynamics, in which voters punish the party in power. In this case, although the Democrats control the White House and both Houses of Congress, it is one of their top priorities – access to abortion – that has been most visibly taken away.

“Rarely has an issue been handed so clearly to Democrats on a silver platter,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who works with multiple campaigns for 2022. “It took elections that would be mostly about inflation and immigration, and it was also about abortion.”

In the roughly 50 days since the Supreme Court ruling, Democrats have flooded the airwaves in many of the nation’s most closely watched contests, spending nearly eight times as much as Republicans on abortion ads — $31.9 million compared to $4.2 million, according to data from AdImpact, a media tracking company. And in the closest senate and governor games, Republicans have spent next to nothing to counter the Democratic offensive.

By contrast, in the last midterm election, four years ago, Democrats spent less than $1 million on ads highlighting abortion-related issues during the same time frame.

The 2022 ad figures do not include money spent on the recent Kansas anti-abortion referendum. The crushing defeat of that measure, especially in a traditionally conservative state, has only further emboldened Democratic strategists and candidates.

There are risks of focusing so heavily on abortion at a time when Americans are also expressing intense concern about the economy. But the Democrats are plowing ahead, especially in key Senate races.

They spent more than $2 million on ads targeting Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson for his stance on abortion; $1.6 million in ads against Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania; and $1.8 million to Adam Laxalt, the Nevada Republican Senate nominee who recently wrote an opinion piece defending his position on the matter.

More abortion ads have aired in the Senate Races in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Arizona and Washington — and even in Connecticut and Maryland, two states with safe Democratic incumbents.

“I clearly believe abortion will matter because I think it cuts across demographics and it really affects a lot of voters, including Trump voters and independents, and their concept of personal freedom,” said JB Poersch, the president of the United Nations. Senate Majority PAC, a democratic superpolitical action committee that has already funded abortion ads in multiple states.

But Republicans say Democrats risk ignoring the economic concerns polls say are paramount.

“They have a lot of bad news, and they think it’s the only good news they have,” said former Ohio Representative Steve Stivers, who led the House Republican campaign branch during the 2018 midterm elections. -want to be an issue party, that’s up to them.”

If Democrats focus overwhelmingly on the issue of abortion at the expense of other issues, Mr Stivers suggested, “they will be smoked into the economy, where they are already losing ground.”

Democrats have been bracing for a Republican wave this fall for months, fueled by President Biden’s waning popularity, high gas prices and inflation, and they continue to face a difficult political environment. But Mr Biden is expected to sign a sweeping legislative package soon that will tackle climate change and prescription drug prices. In addition, gas prices are falling and there are at least some tentative signs that inflation is declining.

Those developments, coupled with opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, have fueled Democrats’ hopes of remaining in power after November. They certainly intend to advertise their legislative achievements while making other attacks on Republicans, whom they believe are a threat to democracy.

For now, new abortion-focused Democratic ads are popping up seemingly almost every day, including in Alaska, Iowa and Virginia.

Some abortion ads use the specific words and stances of Republican candidates against them. Some are told by women who speak in very raw and personal terms. Some are using Republicans’ inflexible stance on abortion to more broadly portray them as extremists.

And some, like an early ad that hits Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, do all three. “Doug Mastriano scares me,” a woman declares at the beginning of the spot.

One particularly emotional spot came from Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, who used a montage of women to focus on Prime Minister Brian Kemp’s position on abortion.

“He supports a total ban,” a woman said in the ad. “Even if I’ve been raped,” says another. More women continue one after another: “Victim of incest. Forced pregnancy. Criminalized women. Women in prison.”

Democrats want to connect abortion posts to the broader argument that hardline Republicans are trying to take away fundamental freedoms.

“The arguments Democrats use in those ads are not limited to the abortion space,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the former White House communications director under President Barack Obama and a longtime party strategist. “You tell them something about their temperament, their judgment and their values.”

In at least five states, Democrats have used the phrase “too extreme” to call out Republicans, taking abortion as an example.

Often, abortion is the Democrats’ gambit at the start of general election campaigns. This month, ads targeted Tudor Dixon in the Michigan governor’s race and Kari Lake in the Arizona governor’s race. And a day after Minnesota’s primary for governor, Democrats began airing an ad calling Republican candidate Scott Jensen “too extreme” about abortion.

The next big test of abortion’s political power comes in a special election on August 23 in New York.

Ulster County, NY, County Executive Pat Ryan, the Democratic nominee in that race, has made abortion the focus of his campaign, even in a state where access remains protected. In a new ad this week, Mr. Ryan a carousel of national Republicans arguing that the party would pursue a nationwide ban.

A Democratic super PAC spends $500,000 to help Mr. Ryan, a veteran, with… an abortion message. “He certainly didn’t fight for our freedom abroad to see those women being taken away here at home,” the narrator says.

The elections are closely monitored as a barometer of the power of the issue. Democrats have outperformed — even in defeat — in two other special elections since Roe v. Wade was quashed, in Minnesota and Nebraska.

Meredith Kelly, a Democratic strategist and advertiser, said one factor that made abortion “extremely powerful” was the idea that “Republicans are taking something away.”

Research has shown that the idea of ​​losing rights can boost voters’ rights, which Ms. Kelly saw firsthand in 2018 when she ran coverage for the campaign arm of the House of Democrats. The party partially took over the House by clubbing Republicans for their repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“If you take something from voters, especially something as cherished and critical as health care, and that’s what this is, that’s a very politically dangerous decision,” she said of Republicans’ approach to abortion rights.

Some Republicans are trying to backslide or soften their positions.

In Arizona, ads are hammering Blake Masters, the Republican Senate nominee for calling abortion “demonic,” punishing doctors who perform the procedure and curbing primaries rape and incest exceptions. In a post-primary interview with The Republic of ArizonaMr. Masters called the state’s 15-week ban “a reasonable solution” and expressed his desire to “reflect the will of the Arizonans.”

On the air, however, few Republicans have had an answer. One notable exception is the New Mexico governor’s race; Mark Ronchetti, the Republican nominee to run against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, is below firework his position on abortion.

“Personally, I’m pro-life, but I believe we can all work together towards a policy that reflects our shared values,” said Mr. Ronchetti in a campaign spot in which he set out his position on the matter.

Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania Attorney General and Democratic nominee for governor, opened his first general election ad by Mr. To appeal to Mastriano about abortion.

In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said voters were particularly attuned to the issue because the state-led legislature had exceeded the strict abortion limits he would pronounce and Mr. Mastriano would sign.

“There’s an intensity around this,” he said. “They know the next Pennsylvania governor will decide this.”

The night before, Mr. Shapiro said, he had met a Republican woman in the Lehigh Valley who told him she was voting for him—her first Democratic vote—for abortion.

“It has brought people to our campaign and has taken people off the sidelines to get involved, like no other issue,” Shapiro said of the impact of abortion after the Supreme Court ruling. “We just saw an explosion.”

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