Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.
A clear momentum shift built over the summer. Biden’s approval ticked up. Democrats were gaining in national generic ballot polls. And voter registration in numerous states shifted younger and more female.
Voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an August referendum that would have opened the door to revoking access to abortion in the red state. Then New York Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election for a closely divided Hudson Valley district while campaigning heavily on abortion rights.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidates and outside groups began a TV ad campaign that would carry through the fall. Since July, Democrats have spent some $120 million on abortion-focused advertising, according to data from AdImpact, a media tracking firm.
Republicans’ internal surveys conducted before Dobbs showed a massive win in November brewing. One example: Slotkin was trailing by a high-single-digit margin in her opponent’s private polling in June. But by mid-September, Republican Tom Barrett was down in his polls, and Slotkin beat him by 5 points on Election Day.
“I don’t think that was all Dobbs, because he had a lot of negative spending going on at the same time,” said Jason Cabel Roe, Barrett’s consultant. “But I don’t think you can ignore the role Dobbs played in it.”
Overturning Roe motivated huge segments of the Democratic Party, especially younger voters — and especially in Michigan, where abortion was literally on the ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to the procedure.
Democrats still had to grapple with inflation and a looming recession, and their candidates aired numerous ads assuring voters they felt their pain. The DCCC’s strategy was for candidates to fight Republicans “to a draw” on the economy and then talk about abortion rights, extremism or guns to pull ahead. One of the closest midterms in history, instead of the usual party-in-power wipeout, was vindication.