Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leading Democrats said Wednesday an unexpectedly strong vote to uphold abortion rights in “red” Kansas gave their party a boost against Republicans heading into the midterm elections this fall.
“Last night the people of Kansas in America’s heartland sent an unmistakable message to the MAGA Republican extremists – retreat from basic women’s rights,” said Schumer, DN.Y. Referring to the rallying cry “Make America Great Again” by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
With an extremely high turnout, Kansans voted 59% to 41% on Tuesday against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to either ban or severely restrict abortion.
“What happened last night in red Kansas reflects what’s happening across the country and what will continue to happen during the November election,” Schumer said in the Senate. “If it’s going to happen in Kansas, it’s going to happen in a whole lot of states.”
Strong pro-choice voting in Kansas, he said, will continue into the November election, he said. “And Republicans who side with this extremist MAGA policy that attacks women’s rights do so at their own political risk,” he said.
The vote was the crucial first test of how voters might respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in June that overturned federal constitutional rights to abortion, which had been in effect since the same court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade case.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling effectively leaves it up to individual states to decide how tightly to regulate abortion or ban it outright.
Almost half of the states are expected to ban the procedure completely or nearly completely, although opinion polls consistently show that a solid majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of Idaho’s new abortion law, which starting later this month would make performing abortions a criminal offense in almost all cases.
Tuesday’s defeat of anti-abortion advocates in Kansas was stunning because the state has consistently backed the Republicans, whose party is opposed to abortion, in the national election. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is a staunch supporter of abortion rights.
In the 2016 presidential election, then-Republican nominee Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Kansas by more than 20 percentage points, helping cement his victory in the national election for the White House.
Trump also defeated President Joe Biden in Kansas in 2020 by nearly 15 percentage points.
Anti-abortion groups spent millions of dollars promoting the Kansas Amendment,
But as of Wednesday morning, the “no” vote on Kansas’ anti-abortion amendment outpaced “yes” voters by about 18 percentage points, with 99% of the votes counted.
Since Biden’s national victory in 2020, it was expected that Democrats would face a difficult chance of retaining their majorities in both houses of Congress in November’s election. An incumbent president’s incumbent party typically fares poorly in midterm races, and the individual Senate seats up for re-election aren’t safe bets for Democrats.
But leading Democrats were heartened by the results of the Kansas Amendment on Wednesday, although not all predicted it means they will retain their majorities.
The results came as a new national poll from Monmouth University showed support for Democrats in a general vote had fallen since June, when the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade.
The most recent Monmouth poll showed that 50% of Americans now prefer Democrats to control Congress, compared to 43% who prefer Republicans to take control. The same poll, which has a 3.5 percentage point margin of error, showed Biden an approval rating of just 38%.
A Monmouth poll in June found the parties perfectly balanced, 47% to 47% of voter preferences. And in May, Republicans had a 4 percentage point lead over Democrats when the poll asked people which party should control Congress.
“I think the message is out there that the reaction across America to this Supreme Court decision is strong,” Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told reporters Wednesday. “People don’t stay at home. They show up in the elections, I think that will have an impact in November.”
When asked if that influence would be enough to save the majority of his party, Durbin said: “I wouldn’t say that, wouldn’t go that far, but I’ll tell you one thing. It has created a new factor in this off-year election in that Republicans are in a difficult position.”
He said reports of extreme situations where women were at risk because they were denied access to abortions made the headlines. “And it’s not one that’s very popular with voters,” he said.
Another Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, told reporters, “The American people are tired of politicians trying to tell them what to do with their lives and their bodies.”
Abortion will be a campaign issue this November, he said.
“The anger, fear and concern expressed in Kansas is so pervasive in this country that I think November will be a key indicator,” Blumenthal said.
But Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said that “I only doubt it” when asked if the abortion rights issue would result in Democrats retaining their majority.
“I think we’re going to take them both back,” Hawley said, looking ahead to the Senate and House of Representatives.
Abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America suggested that Hawley’s trust was unjustified.
“At a time when reproductive freedom is under unprecedented threat across the country, Kansans at the ballot box said loud and clear, ‘We’ve had enough,'” NARAL President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement.
“In the heartland of the United States, protecting access to abortion is mobilizing voters like never before, and that mobilization is just beginning. Reproductive freedom is a winning theme, now and in November,” said Timmaraju.