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Ohio Democrats Working to Tie GOP Candidates to Unpopular Abortion Stances After Issue 1 Rout

The results for Issue 1 remain unofficial, but Ohio Democrats are already working to pin that drubbing on 2024’s GOP candidates. In the U.S. Senate primary, all three Republicans loudly opposed the reproductive rights amendment; Republican candidates for Congress in hotly contested races did the same.

Given Ohio’s recent electoral track record, Issue 1’s results suggest many voters who ordinarily cast ballots for Republicans went in the opposite direction on these issues. That disconnect — between GOP voters and party leaders — has become a pattern in several states since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Still, the 2024 general election is a long way away. Also, a choice between candidates, who express views on a broad array of different issues, is less explicit than a single subject ballot measure.

Democrats’ case

Ohio Democratic Party chair Liz Walters gathered reporters for a press conference first thing Wednesday morning. She crowed about the party’s ground game and warned that, if elected, Republicans would do their best to undermine Issue 1’s protections.

“Every single Republican candidate running against Sherrod Brown in the primary — Frank LaRose, Bernie Moreno and Matt Dolan — all support a national abortion ban,” Walters argued. “And if they are elected will go to Washington to try to override the will of the Ohio voters through a national abortion ban.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, posted a video Wednesday hammering his Republican opponents for their stances. Walters argued next year’s election will be a referendum on the reproductive rights — even if the abortion issue itself isn’t on the ballot.

“Ohio voters are smart, they understand what’s in front of them,” Walters said. “They will understand next year that sending one of these out of touch Republicans to Washington will merely empower folks who do not believe in choice, who do not believe in democracy.”

Sore losers?

If the statements from Ohio’s legislative leaders is any indication, however, Democrats won’t have much trouble convincing voters their decision in 2024 is directly connected to abortion rights.

Before heading to bed on election night, House Speaker Jason Stephens promised to pursue legislation. Senate President Matt Huffman suggested lawmakers might attempt to repeal the amendment.

“This isn’t the end,” he promised. “It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”

Wednesday, 27 statehouse Republicans issued a joint statement arguing the amendment doesn’t “mention a single, specific law.”

“We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent,” they added.

In a lengthy social media post, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-OH, was forthright about the “gut punch” Issue 1’s opponents got on election night. He argued voters don’t trust the GOP on abortion and that they need to a better job communicating a positive vision.

But most of all he argued the lack of exceptions for rape or incest in Ohio’s laws doomed their effort. “We got creamed among voters who disliked both Issue 1 and also Ohio’s current law,” he explained. “This is a political fact, not my opinion.” In a roundabout way, he acknowledged Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban with few exceptions went too far — describing polling where that policy loses 65-35.”

Like other Republicans, Vance promised to continue fighting. And while he voiced support for Congress setting some kind of “national standard” he has yet to endorse a specific policy.

“Giving up on the unborn is not an option. It’s politically dumb and morally repugnant,” Vance wrote. “Instead, we need to understand why we lost this battle so we can win the war.”

Sleeping giant

Despite Republicans’ frustration, Tuesday’s result really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Pew Research Center has shown roughly 60% of Americans support abortion access. The same study noted an increase in those who believe access should be easier especially in states that have moved to prohibit or restrict abortion.

University of Akron political scientist David Cohen pointed to even more consequential polling. “In state after state,” he explained, “even very, very ruby red states, voters have consistently been voting in favor of reproductive rights ever since the Dobbs decision in 2022.”

Cohen argued overturning Roe and continuing to pass restrictive legislation has “woken a sleeping giant” in the electorate. Even if Republican abortion policy doesn’t send GOP voters to the Democratic party, he said, it could convince them to stay home.

As for Issue 1’s impact on 2024, he argued congressional candidates who don’t face a primary challenger “can absolutely moderate, and have to moderate, if they want to have a chance at winning in November.” Cohen argued that’s not really an option in the U.S. Senate race.

“Whoever gets the (GOP) nomination, it will behoove them to never talk about abortion again, after the primary,” Cohen said. “But I can guarantee you that Sherrod Brown and his campaign aren’t gonna let them do that.”

Where the rubber meets the road

University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven said the map was good news for Brown’s campaign as well.

“In Northeast Ohio, you have counties that were traditionally in the Democratic base stretching from Toledo all the way to the Pennsylvania border, that have largely fallen to Republicans,” he described. “And what you saw was a sweep for Issue 1, from Toledo all the way to to Erie, Pennsylvania. And I really think that is a blueprint for how Sherrod Brown could win another term.”

In past statements, Bernie Moreno has backed a 15-week national abortion ban that allows states to impose stiffer restrictions. On Meet the Press, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he’d vote for a national ban if it came up in the U.S. Senate. He wasn’t specific about what he wanted to see, but said he voted for Ohio’s six-week ban and described it as “a good standard.” State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls prefers leaving the decision to the state, but The Dispatch reports he’d give a national ban “a second look.”

Ohio Capital Journal reached out to all three candidates to see if they had any comment in the wake of Issue 1’s results. None of them responded.

The results may offer a plan of attack for vulnerable Democratic U.S. Representatives. National Republicans are eyeing seats held by U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Greg Landsman as potential pickups to insulate the Republican majority in the House.

Kaptur’s potential GOP opponents include U.S. Air Force veteran J.R. Majewksi and former state Rep. Craig Riedel. Majewski believes in life at conception and stated he would “support all legislation that protects life in the womb.” Riedel voted in favor of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban and described it as his “proudest day” as a legislator.

Republican Orlando Sonza has been more measured about abortion policy — acknowledging “a majority of Americans support having abortion legal to some degree.” He voiced opposition to Issue 1, but simply said the proposal went “too far.”

Niven warned Issue 1’s results don’t mean Ohio is suddenly “in play” when it comes to presidential politics. Still, he insisted the results here and in Kentucky are “proof of concept that a Democrat can run on core democratic values and still succeed in places where Democrats have been losing.”

Source : Ohio Capital Journal



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