On November 7, Democrats and abortion rights advocates secured a series of significant electoral victories, signalling the continued potency of reproductive rights as a central issue for Democrats leading up to the 2024 presidential race. Notably, these wins were achieved in conservative strongholds, marking a remarkable turn of events.
In the state of Ohio, which voted for Republican Donald Trump by a substantial 8-percentage-point margin in the 2020 presidential election, voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights, as projected by Edison Research. This outcome extends a winning streak for abortion access advocates following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn the landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade ruling, which had granted a nationwide right to end pregnancies.
Across the country in Virginia, Democrats appeared to be on track to maintain their slim majority in the state Senate, a result that would enable them to continue blocking Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to pursue a ban on most abortions beyond 15 weeks after conception. While the House results remained too close to call, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee issued a statement asserting the party’s retention of the Senate.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear secured a second consecutive four-year term, defying the state’s conservative tilt, which saw it voting for Trump by a staggering 25-plus-percentage-point margin in 2020. Edison’s projections confirmed Beshear’s victory.
These electoral contests offer crucial insights into the electorate’s stance just under ten weeks before the Iowa presidential nominating contest commences the 2024 presidential campaign in earnest.
The outcomes may serve to alleviate concerns among some national Democrats regarding President Joe Biden’s popularity among voters. In response to the Ohio result, Biden expressed his approval, stating, “Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms – and democracy won.”
Kentucky’s gubernatorial race witnessed Beshear prevailing over Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who would have become the state’s first Black chief executive. Beshear, despite his party affiliation, has maintained high approval ratings, largely thanks to his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters. He campaigned on a platform of protecting abortion rights, even though he lacks the authority to overturn the state’s near-total ban.
Beshear’s victory speech emphasized the need to put an end to “anger politics” and divisiveness, underlining the significance of unity in the current political climate.
In Ohio, the recent electoral battle centred around abortion rights, taking place nearly a year and a half after the Supreme Court’s pivotal decision. Abortion rights advocacy groups have strategically utilized referendums related to abortion to achieve victories in various conservative states. They have reaffirmed this approach, and the Ohio outcome is expected to bolster efforts to present similar ballot measures in several states for the 2024 elections, including pivotal swing states like Arizona and Florida.
In Virginia, all 40 Senate seats and 100 House of Delegates seats were up for grabs. Democrats strategically placed abortion at the forefront of their campaign, with Governor Youngkin proposing a 15-week limit on abortions as a moderate compromise, which could serve as a blueprint for Republicans in the upcoming elections. However, the failure to secure a legislative majority was a setback for Youngkin, who had heavily invested his political action committee’s funds in the campaign.
Furthermore, Biden’s involvement in these races became evident as he issued endorsements for 16 Democrats running in competitive state House races and seven in Senate races, while also appealing for fundraising support from his backers.
In other election-related developments on Tuesday, early results indicated that Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves was leading his Democratic challenger, Brandon Presley. While Presley had raised more campaign funds than Reeves, he faced an uphill battle in a state that voted for Trump by more than 16 percentage points in 2020. The race remained too close to call as the vote count progressed, with Reeves maintaining a lead of over 14 percentage points with approximately 60% of the estimated vote counted, according to Edison Research.
Notably, both Reeves and Cameron in Kentucky had received endorsements from former President Trump, who remains the frontrunner for the 2024 White House nomination within his party, despite ongoing legal challenges.