Republicans should be careful what they wish for
When it comes to the issue of abortion rights, America’s 50 states hold widely differing views and don’t break down along red-blue lines as predictably as one might expect.
That might be good news for former Vice President Joe Biden.
As the nation prepares for an epic battle over a Supreme Court nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, some key battleground states aren’t as closely divided on abortion as they are on the presidency. President Donald Trump’s rush to fill the vacant seat might supercharge evangelicals in his base nationally, but with some irony, he might not be doing himself any favors at the Electoral College.
Some key Republican states have sizeable majorities supporting abortion rights in all or most cases, according to Pew Research Center findings published in January. The 24 most pro-life states were in the red column in 2016, but five of those had slight pro-choice majorities as of January, Pew found.
Most notably, the pivotal state of Florida is the third most pro-choice red state in the nation, with Pew finding that residents supported abortion rights by a 56-39 percent margin. That’s close to the national average of 61-to-39 percent support that Pew found nationally for abortion in all or most cases. That should make the Trump camp nervous.
There are also sizable pro-choice majorities in the three key Rust Belt battleground states Trump won in 2016 and which are key targets of former Vice President Joe Biden: Michigan (54-42 percent), Wisconsin (53-45 percent) and Pennsylvania (51-44 percent). Meanwhile, New Hampshire, a state Trump lost narrowly and hopes to flip, is the nation’s fourth most pro-choice state by a whopping 66-to-29 percent margin.
The five states which Trump won in 2016, but have slight pro-choice majorities today are: Iowa (52-46 percent), North Carolina (49-45 percent), Nebraska (50-46 percent), Arizona (49-46 percent) and Ohio (49-48 percent). All are rated toss-ups by Real Clear Politics (for one electoral vote in Nebraska’s case).
Of those, Iowa, North Carolina and Arizona each has an incumbent Republican senator trailing in the polls: Sens. Thom Tillis, Martha McSally and Sen. Joni Ernst, respectively. A bitter fight over the court isn’t as likely to help these embattled senators as it might in other red states.
A sleeper is Montana, the second most pro-choice red state in the nation by a 56-to-38 percent margin, stunningly more favorable to abortion rights than the likes of Virginia and Illinois, and just one net percentage point shy of California. That might help Governor Steve Bullock, the former presidential candidate deadlocked in a battle to unseat Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
The nation’s ninth most pro-choice state is Maine (64-33 percent), where one uncertain electoral vote hangs in the balance. Sen. Susan Collins, who is pro-choice, was the first Republican to publicly oppose choosing a justice before the election. Still, the debate likely won’t help her in Maine.
The same holds true in blue-state Colorado, where GOP Sen. Cory Gardner faces an uphill reelection struggle against former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Colorado residents favor abortion rights by a decisive 59-to-36 percent margin.
From the other side South Carolina is the eighth most pro-life state in the nation, opposed to abortion 52-to-42 percent. It remains to be seen whether that can offset those videos of Graham indignantly opposing President Obama’s 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court.
The most pro-choice red state is Alaska (63-34 percent), which isn’t in play, but its leanings might explain why its pro-choice GOP Senator, Lisa Murkowski, was quick to oppose selecting a justice before November 3. It matters what the folks at home are thinking on this issue.
Democrats need to flip five Senate seats presently helped by Republicans to regain control of the Senate, assuming Sen. Doug Jones loses his seat in Alabama, as most expect. That’s a huge priority for the party regardless of the presidential outcome.
With abortion suddenly catapulted to a key November 3 issue by the upcoming Senate bloodbath, Senators Gardner, Daines, McSally, Ernst, Collins and Tillis might have just encountered a new problem. That’s a total of six, and the Democrats need to flip just five.
Most national analysis focuses upon which side of the abortion divide will most be activated by the new issue presented by Justice Ginsburg’s death. That’s a valid consideration from a fund-raising standpoint and might factor into the upcoming debates.
But America has a 50-state election, not a national one. In the case of the Supreme Court fight, it might make sense to look at those states one at a time.