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WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and other leading Democrats are pushing to make abortion a central issue as they seek to retain control of the U.S. Congress in the November election. But on the ground, some of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents are downplaying the problem.
From Maine to Arizona, several Democratic incumbents are instead emphasizing core issues like national security and job creation as they fight to hold onto their seats in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Many are trying to survive in districts that have become more Republican following the 2020 redistricting by heavily Republican state legislatures.
In Ohio’s northwest corner, Rep. Marcy Kaptur is emphasizing the populist themes she’s campaigned on since 1982 as she faces the toughest race of her career.
In campaign appearances, Kaptur talks about limiting CEO pay and raising blue-collar salaries. Abortion “is not something she’s going to talk about,” according to a person close to the race, who asked not to be identified to speak candidly about it.
That’s not what Biden and other Democratic leaders envisioned after the Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade who guaranteed a national right to abortion.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” he said in a White House speech after the June 24 ruling.
The court’s decision was cheered by Republicans who have worked for decades to roll back abortion rights.
But he is less popular with the public.
Some 55% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a June Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Some analysts say the court’s ruling could help Democrats distract voters from inflation and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
Historically, American voters have treated midterm elections, which take place in the middle of a president’s four-year term, as an opportunity to rein in the presidential party. This time around, that would mean punishing Democrats by electing more Republicans.
But abortion could overturn that formula in 2022.
“If the focus is on a Republican-dominated Supreme Court decision, the Democrats will appear less like a power that needs to be balanced,” said Paul Sracic, professor of political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. .
In Washington, the Democrats are promoting the right to abortion. The House of Representatives has repeatedly passed bills that would establish the right to abortion in law, but those bills have been blocked by Republicans in the Senate, who are split 50-50 between the two parties. At least 60 votes are needed to move most bills forward.
At home, some Democrats in danger are talking about the issue with voters.
In New Jersey, Rep. Tom Malinowski posted a dozen abortion rights messages on Twitter in the three weeks since the court’s ruling.
Residents of the Republican-leaning suburban neighborhood broadly support abortion rights, said Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker. “These people tend to be influenced by very abrupt changes in social policy,” he said.
But voters in some battleground districts told Reuters the economy, not abortion, was their top concern. Read more
Opinion polls place the economy at the top of voters’ concerns. Crime, guns and immigration are among the issues that follow, with abortion even further down the list.
In South Texas, Henry Cuellar, the only House Democrat to vote against abortion rights legislation last year, narrowly beat a liberal challenger in a Democratic primary backed by advocacy groups abortion rights. Since then, the longtime conservative Democrat’s campaign messages have failed to mention the issue.
Similarly, Democrats Tom O’Halleran of Arizona and Jared Golden of Maine barely campaigned on the issue, according to a Reuters review of campaign materials.
In Eastern Virginia, Representative Elaine Luria denounced the Supreme Court’s decision on Twitter as “a blow to women’s rights.” But recent campaign messages have highlighted his work to increase military spending and investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Analysts warn the problem could fade closer to Election Day as other events capture voters’ attention.
“We can’t be sure this will remain a very big issue four or five months from now,” Sracic said.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and Rose Horowitch; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Aurora Ellis
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