Away from Texas, Virginia governor’s race will test how abortion motivates voters: NPR
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Morgan Byrd said if it hadn’t been for Texas’ new restrictive abortion law, she likely wouldn’t have signed up to volunteer to apply for Planned Parenthood.
âI wish I could say I would have, but no, it’s really the stretch that kind of encourages me to get up more,â she said. “It tells me I need to be there. I need to get the word out.”
Byrd was one of a small group of volunteers who gathered outside a cafe in Arlington, Virginia this month to learn more about canvassing for the abortion rights group.
Early voting is already underway for the Virginia election, ahead of election day in November, and topping the list is the governor’s race – the first major competitive contest since the new restrictions on the election took effect. abortion in Texas. For Democrats, it’s also a major test of the extent to which opposition to this law could motivate voters, even if they don’t live in Texas, ahead of next year’s election, where control of the Congress will be decided.
The race in Virginia pits former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, the former CEO of private equity firm Carlyle Group.
Texas law has made abortion a bigger problem than it already was in the countryside. Opponents of abortion rights are unhappy with incumbent Democratic Governor Ralph Northam.
Then a video posted in July by a website called American Independent raised the temperature in the abortion debate in the state. It shows Youngkin telling a woman posing as an abortion rights opponent that talking about restricting abortion will make it harder to win.
âWhen I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start attacking,â he said. “But as a campaign subject, unfortunately, that won’t actually win my independent votes that I need to get.”
McAuliffe plastered Youngkin’s video on local television markets in campaign ads.
Democrats want to talk about the right to abortion. For Republicans, it’s the economy
McAuliffe stressed his support for abortion rights and said he would sign legislation to make third trimester abortion easier if the patient’s life is in danger.
Youngkin, meanwhile, said he would not sign a law like the one in Texas, which bans abortions after about six weeks and additionally rewards citizens for successfully bringing complaints against people who break that law. He also dodged whether he would sign a âfetal heartbeatâ bill, but said he supported a âpain threshold billâ. These types of bills ban abortion after 20 weeks.
And both candidates worked to present each other’s positions as extreme, a logical tactic given that Americans’ views on abortion largely exist somewhere between the two more distant poles of the debate. A plurality of Americans, 48%, think abortion should be legal in certain circumstances, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, about a third think it should still be legal, and a fifth think it should still be illegal.
However, their tactics differ in that Youngkin doesn’t embrace the problem as much as McAuliffe.
“It goes back to a fairly familiar idea in politics that the side that feels most threatened by something is probably the one that gets the most motivation from it,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia. “And so the side that perhaps feels more threatened that the abortion status quo is going to change is the Democrats right now.”
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The types of events the contestants have organized show how they attempt to frame the race. McAuliffe visited a Charlottesville abortion clinic just over a week after the Texas law came into effect.
“It’s so anti-American. It’s pitting neighbors against neighbors, friends against friends. It’s just outrageous,” he said. “And it can come here in Virginia.”
Youngkin, meanwhile, has been working to race the economy and inflation in particular, which he highlighted when greeting shoppers at a Woodbridge grocery store.
“One of the things I want to do if I am elected governor is take the tax on groceries,” he said, greeting a customer at the bakery counter.
âAmen,â the man replied.
The state’s 2.5% grocery tax has become a centerpiece of Youngkin’s campaign. Focusing on inflation is a tactic other Republicans seem willing to use in their mid-term races as well.
A close race in a democratic state
Youngkin maintains competitive racing in a state that has become reliable for Democrats. A new poll from The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University found Youngkin and McAuliffe almost tied among likely voters.
Abortion tends to be an important topic for many voters, but it is the most important topic for only a small part – this latest poll from the To post notes that 9% of voters have abortion as their main problem.
But that small part counts in a tight race, says Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, which campaigns against the right to abortion.
“When you have a race as close as this and we motivate the pro-life vote to come out [and] do what they can, Democrats should be afraid, “she said.” Because it’s going to matter in this election. “
Again, abortion can motivate a voter even without it being the person’s main problem. Which brings us back to Morgan Byrd, the new Planned Parenthood solicitor. NPR asked him what matters most to him in this election:
âI would say for the state of Virginia it’s probably not reproductive rights because I have a little more confidence in them and our leadership,â she said. “So maybe I would say things like climate change and things like that.”
But it was abortion rights that prompted her to volunteer. And even more galvanizing abortion decisions could be on the way, right in the middle of the mid-season campaign. Next year, the conservative Supreme Court is expected to rule on an abortion ban in Mississippi.