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Overturning Roe v. Wade, as the court seems poised to do, is unlikely to change the landscape of primaries less than two weeks away. But it’s sure to be a huge issue as we roll into the general election.
It could easily become one of the defining contrasts of the Senate and gubernatorial races this fall, with dramatic, real-world consequences riding on the results.
Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general and presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, immediately vowed to be a firewall against attempts to roll back abortion rights. The Republican candidates all support limiting or completely banning abortions in the state. The Senate contest could decide control of the chamber — which will either allow Democrats to force votes to codify Roe, or Republicans to hold votes on nationwide limits.
Do those new realities help either party secure the wins — and the policy outcomes — they want?
Democrats have been battered politically by inflation, gas prices, and pandemic fatigue. But the abstract threat of losing abortion rights just became a likely reality, and some Democrats argue that will give their discouraged or disengaged voters more motivation to show up and fight this fall.
Yesterday alone, abortion-rights supporters rallied in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.
But the decision could also galvanize anti-abortion conservatives who have long waited for the 1973 ruling to be reversed, and now can thank Republicans for delivering.
A majority of Pennsylvania voters still think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, mirroring national numbers, but it hasn’t traditionally been a decisive issue. It typically ranks below the economy, healthcare, and jobs in issue polls.
Many Republicans (and some Democrats) think the economy is still likely to be the overriding issue in November.
Then again, there’s never been an election after abortion rights were suddenly wiped away. It’s one thing for some limits on abortion to pass in some states, and another for 50 years of established law to be erased, clearing the way for some extremely restrictive bans. It’s a lot easier to get motivated about actually losing something than a vague threat in the future.
Here in Pa., the party that controls the governor’s mansion (should the legislature stay in Republican control) will likely determine whether abortion bans become law or get vetoed. And state legislative races could get a lot more attention now..
But let’s take a breath and refocus on the primary that’s upon us. It hasn’t changed much. The candidates within each party are largely in lockstep on this issue, and the actual ruling isn’t expected until well after May 17.
There will likely be more pressure on Republicans to specify what restrictions they support and what exceptions (if any) they’d allow. Some have answered those questions when we’ve asked. Others have not.
And there’s already pressure on Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, one of the last “pro-life” Democrats, to take a stance on federal legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade.
The old cliche is that “elections have consequences.” But it sticks around because it’s true.
Donald Trump’s 2016 victory helped change the shape of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is about to change abortion law. And the winners this fall will decide exactly how far those changes reach into Pennsylvania.
The politics lead to policy.
Overheard on the campaign trial
“When I’m governor, we will restore the rights to parents and guarantee that there will be no sexually explicit content in our schools without parental consent.”
—Lou Barletta, a Republican candidate for governor, campaigning in West Chester against “sexually explicit content” in public schools.
What else you should know
OH and Oz. A big, expensive, and messy GOP Senate primary (sound familiar?) wrapped up yesterday, and you can bet the results were welcome news for Mehmet Oz in Pa. Author J.D. Vance won the Republican nomination for Senate in Ohio, a victory powered by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Oz, of course, has also secured Trump’s nod, and the ex-president is coming to Westmoreland County on Friday to rally with the fellow TV star. We’re not saying Vance’s win means Oz is a lock — every race is different — but it’s one more data point showing the power of Trump’s support with GOP voters. Vance had sharply criticized Trump in the past, but still won after being granted absolution by the pope of Mar-a-Lago. Oz is hoping Trump’s blessing can help erase his own past deviations from conservative orthodoxy.
Lamb NOW. Conor Lamb was in Philly today with the National Organization for Women, joining forces with the group, which endorsed him in the Democratic Senate primary, to call for protecting abortion rights. “The Democratic Party at its best believes that government is a positive force for good and that we can do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and you’ve probably all heard news stories about how 70% of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade, should be kept in place,” he said. “Well, I don’t need a poll to tell you that because I ran for Congress in a district that Trump won by 20 points. My position on being pro-choice has been the same from the first day until now.” It was part of a busy day of campaigning in the state’s largest city, including stops by Republican gubernatorial candidates Lou Barletta and Bill McSwain.
What to watch for next
Another debate. The Republican Senate candidates debate on Newsmax tonight — including Oz and his top rival David McCormick (the two front-runners have ducked several other events). It airs at 8 p.m.
Here comes Trump. The former president is coming to the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg on Friday for a rally with Oz. The event kicks off at 8 p.m.
If you’ve got any really big Supreme Court rulings to leak, you know where to find us. Till next week...