What a difference a week makes. Over just five days, we experienced two monumental moments in our political history.
First on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe decision that ensured a right to an abortion. Then on Tuesday, Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson delivered devastating personal testimony to the January 6th Committee.
Of course, for our purposes, the main question is what effect (if any) these developments will have on this year’s midterm elections.
The Dobbs Decision
In a 6-3 decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a majority of the court ruled that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were wrongly decided and that individuals have no inherent right to an abortion. Instead, the Court directed that abortion should be regulated by the states.
This new normal creates a reality where abortion is legal in some (mostly blue) states, illegal in some (mostly red) states, and where the legality is up in the air in a number of other (mostly purple) states.
As a result, gubernatorial contests in toss-up states like Michigan and Pennsylvania take on a new significance. The only way for pro-choice voters to block Republican-led legislatures from banning abortions in those states is to back the Democratic nominees for Governor. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for instance, highlighted this point as she made the rounds on multiple TV networks after the Court announced its decision.
The conventional wisdom, ever since a draft of Justice Alito’s majority opinion leaked last month, is that such a decision could motivate disaffected Democratic voters. In fact, over the past few days, a number of Republican officials have privately told reporters they are worried about this exact phenomenon.
Moreover, the initial polling suggests that just such a movement may be occurring. In three separate surveys (YouGov/Yahoo, Morning Consult/Politico, Marist/NPR) of the 2022 generic Congressional ballot taken since the Dobbs decision, the Democrats improved their share in all three.
On the other hand, there are also indications that the entire episode is having a depressive effect on progressives. Social media is rife with criticism from pro-choice activists furious over what they feel to be a decades-long failure by Democratic officials to codify Roe into law.
Not helping matters is the lackluster response from the Biden White House and Democratic Congressional leaders. The timing of the decision was particularly poor for President Biden as he had to leave for Germany and the G7 summit the next day. As a result, most of the messaging has fallen on Vice President Harris and Press Secretary Jean-Pierre, who have been reluctant to get out ahead of Biden and support certain counter-measures.
Consequently, pro-choice advocates are once again questioning whether President Biden is really a champion of their cause. After all, Biden cast a number of anti-choice votes, and made several anti-choice statements, during the first decade of his political career.
With the White House mostly on the sidelines, progressive leaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are filling the void and trying to rally their supporters to take action.
Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony
As the week began, it was difficult to imagine another news story knocking the Dobbs decision out of the headlines. Cassidy Hutchinson’s surprise January 6th testimony, however, managed to do just that.
Over the course of a few hours, Hutchinson testified that Donald Trump was aware many in the crowd were armed when he urged them to march to the Capitol. Additionally, she confirmed that Trump felt Pence deserved to be pursued by the mob.
Hutchinson also described how Trump sought to include a pledge to pardon the rioters in a January 7th statement and that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows requested a pardon for himself.
Of course, the most noteworthy revelation was that Trump got into a physical altercation with one of his Secret Service agents after refusing to take him to the Capitol. The pair of men involved, Tony Ornato and Robert Engel, are disputing Hutchinson’s testimony, yet both men are also still quite close with the former President.
The core question, obviously, is whether any of this will matter for the 2022 midterms.
Well, so far, the committee has put on a compelling show that’s garnered great TV ratings. Like the Dobbs decision, if these hearings can rile up disaffected Democrats or reach disengaged Independents then they could definitely have an impact.
When considering the aforementioned question, it’s worth keeping in mind that any average news day between now and Election Day is essentially a victory for the GOP. They have the historical winds at their back, as nearly every midterm election in modern times has been a disaster for the party in power. They’ve also got the economic winds at their back too, inflation is the highest it’s been in a generation and shows no sign of slowing.
Therefore, just about any news story that can capture the public’s imagination is helpful to Democrats at this point. Events concerning core Democratic fears, like abortion access and Donald Trump, would definitely qualify.
Tuesday Primary Results Rundown
Before we go, let’s run through some of the more eventful primary results that were overshadowed by the week’s other major news stories.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul easily won the Democratic nomination and is headed to a general election contest with Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Down in Mississippi, Congressman Michael Guest surprised observers by handily defeating challenger Michael Cassidy, 67% to 33%, in the 3rd district run-off. Guest was in trouble for voting to establish a January 6th commission, but apparently the three extra weeks was enough to prove his bona fides to his constituents.
In Illinois, redistricting forced two Republican incumbents to run against each other in the 15th district. The more conservative candidate, Mary Miller, prevailed over the more moderate Rodney Davis 58% to 42%. Donald Trump was backing Miller, and held a rally for her last weekend (perhaps you saw the video).
On the other hand, over in Colorado, a trio of more moderate Republicans won the party’s Senate, Gubernatorial and Secretary of State nominations. This is a defeat for Democrats who were hoping to tip the scales and stick the GOP with more conservative candidates in increasingly blue Colorado.
Finally, Democrats were buoyed a bit by a better-than-expected defeat in a Congressional special election for Nebraska’s 1st district. Democratic nominee Patty Brooks, who ran hard against the Court’s Dobbs decision, managed to outperform Joe Biden in the district. For the moment, it’s unclear whether this is an outlier or the first suggestion of something more significant.