There’s One Huge Problem With Dems Supposed Post-Roe Election Comeback

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden signs second executive order meant to address recent Supreme Court decision to end nationwide constitutional right to abortion

There’s One Huge Problem With Dems Supposed Post-Roe Election Comeback

Laurel Duggan on August 24, 2022

Democrats have performed especially well in House special elections since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but low turnout in those races suggests they won’t be a bellwether for November, according to election experts.

Democrats have expressed hope that the end of Roe would chip away at Republicans’ lead in the upcoming primaries, and media outlets have pointed to recent races where Democrats performed well as a sign of a comeback after months of unfavorable polls. However, while Democrats’ prospects are certainly improving, the elections had particularly low turnout, meaning that those races don’t necessarily reflect how the electorate will vote in November.

“But the caution flag on Dem overperformance? These have all been low-turnout specials decided by a fraction of November’s likely electorate,” Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman wrote, adding that this was still an improvement for Democrats from last year’s races.

Special elections for House seats since the May 2 leak of the court’s decision to overturn Roe showed Republicans losing their edge: in Nebraska’s 1st District, which former President Donald Trump won by 11 points in 2020, the Republican candidate only had a five point edge. Trump won Minnesota’s 1st District by 10 points, but the Republican candidate only won by four.

The Nebraska race saw about 111,000 ballots submitted compared to more than 234,000 in 2018 elections, and the Minnesota race saw about 118,000 votes cast, compared to over 291,000 in the 2018 midterms.

“The Republican hope, and it’s not an unreasonable one, is that their voters will show up in more force compared to these lower-turnout specials,” wrote Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. “Part of the trade going on in the broader electorate is that Democrats have been picking up more white college graduates while losing more whites who do not have a 4-year degree to Republicans.”

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“College graduates are generally higher-propensity voters, which may help Democrats in these lower-turnout special elections,” he added.

Biden won New York’s 19th District by two points in 2020, and Democrats maintained a two-point advantage in their special House race, defying expectations of Democrats losing their edge, but only about 129,000 votes were cast compared to more than 287,000 in 2018.

“I think the right way to think about these specials (after experience of 20 and 18)—this is necessary but not sufficient for much better than average midterm performance for Ds. Missing piece is winning a lot of cross-pressured (+still frustrated) voters who only turnout in Nov,” Democratic Pollster Will Jordan wrote.

The court’s decision to overturn Roe was leaked May 2 and made final June 24, sparking protests and a widespread sense that the decision would undercut Republicans’ advantage in November midterms. The Democratic Party has been focusing on the abortion issue and some Democratic candidates are making abortion a central component of their campaigns.

However, numerous polls have shown that abortion is not a leading issue for voters, and that most voters favor abortion restrictions that would have been struck down under Roe, which banned most restrictions throughout the first six months of pregnancy.

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