Female Democratic candidates across the country are leaning into the fight over abortion rights, hoping to make it a top voting issue come fall.  

National Democrats from President Biden down have expressed outrage at the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the White House has issued a clarion call for voters to elect more pro-abortion rights lawmakers. 

Polls suggest that Democrats have an advantage over Republicans on abortion in general, but Democratic strategists see female candidates in particular as the ones to carry the most convincing message to Americans to vote for Democrats in the midterms following the Supreme Court decision. 

“Women candidates – Democrats and independents and even pro-choice Republicans – of which there are many, are well suited to make the holistic arguments in support of women’s fundamental rights,” said Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl. “It’s about a woman’s body, and choice, and also about parenting and children and families and workplaces and on and on.”

“Of course, it’s a men’s fight as well as women’s and the pro-choice men who speak out often are powerful messengers,” Sefl added. “But women are poised to seize this moment because boy are we pissed off.” 

One of those candidates is Stacey Abrams, who is challenging Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for the governor’s mansion for a second time. Abrams did the rounds on the Sunday shows – including Fox News – days after the ruling came down and has assailed Kemp over a 2019 law in Georgia banning abortion as early as six weeks.

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who is up for reelection this fall, is waging a very public battle with the Republican-controlled state legislature that is trying to enforce a 1931 law banning abortion.

“If you know a Republican or an independent who values women’s rights, we’ve got to invite them to join us,” she said at a rally outside Michigan’s Capitol after the Supreme Court issued its ruling last month, warning that women’s lives were at risk.

The trend extends to Senate hopefuls and incumbents as well. In a new advertisement, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who faces a difficult reelection battle, portrays herself as part of the defense against a nationwide abortion ban that some Republicans have expressed openness to. 

Wary of President Biden’s low approval ratings, high inflation, and historical trends, Democrats have feared substantial losses in the midterms. But some believe that an effective message on abortion could help the party hold onto seats and perhaps pick up some unexpected wins in November. 

“This is an opportunity for a number of women, particularly women of color, who are running for office to galvanize support around their candidacy,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of the public policy program at Hunter College. 

Democrats see an opportunity to especially reach young female voters and suburban women on the issue of abortion. Young voters are a key prong of the Democratic base, and suburban women represent a key swing demographic that delivered Biden the White House but has shown signs of souring on his presidency. 

“It’s a twofer,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who argued that the abortion ruling could have a major impact in gubernatorial and Senate races in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan. 

Lake’s firm recently conducted research showing that Democrats and Democratic women in particular have an edge over Republicans when it comes to their handling of the issue of abortion. Voters give a Democratic woman a 23-point advantage over a Republican man when it comes to handling the issue, whereas a Democratic man has a 12-point edge over a GOP man, according to a copy of the May 27 research memo shared with The Hill.

“Voters were really responding to the voices of pro-choice Democratic women,” Lake said. 

Some Democrats who have criticized the White House’s initial response to the ruling as inadequate also see Democratic female voices filling a critical void. 

“A lot of women voters are thinking, ‘I just had my rights taken away from me,’” Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said.  

“I’m grateful for the support and advocacy from men on my behalf, but all things being equal, I’d rather choose the person who understands what I’m going through,” she continued. “Especially given the lack of compassion from the White House. Why have they taken options off the table? That says to women, ‘We don’t see this as a crisis.’”

Democrats, like Setzer and half a dozen others interviewed by The Hill, have expressed frustration at the White House, arguing the administration has not been aggressive enough in taking executive action to protect abortion access in the wake of the ruling. The frustration has reached a boiling point in recent days and could hurt Biden moving forward if the administration doesn’t take appropriate action, strategists say. 

“What in the world is going on with them?” one Democratic strategist asked about the Biden administration. “This is a major fire and they’re not treating it as such. I don’t know what it’s going to take but women suffered a huge loss this past week and I’m not feeling that vibe from the White House.” 

Biden, who was overseas on a pre-planned trip to Europe this past week, delivered what many viewed as a forceful speech hours after the Supreme Court striking down Roe and on Thursday called for a carve-out to the filibuster to pass legislation codifying abortion rights. The president has faced calls from some in his own party to be more aggressive with executive action on abortion, however. 

The White House’s messaging strategy around abortion is still taking shape. Thus far, Vice President Harris has been the leading voice on the issue, and it remains unclear how big of a starring role Biden will play.

The White House has tried to lift up other voices at the state level. Biden met virtually with a group of nine Democratic governors on Friday to discuss actions to guard abortion access in their respective states. 

Govs. Kathy Hochul (D) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), both of whom are up for reelection in November, each spoke during the virtual event, highlighting actions they have taken and urging Biden to take more executive actions to protect abortion access.

“It is a matter of life and death for American women,” Hochul said. 

Tags abortion rights Biden Brian Kemp Gretchen Whitmer Gretchen Whitmer Joe Biden Kamala Harris Maggie Hassan Roe v. Wade Stacey Abrams Stacey Abrams Supreme Court
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