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Karl Rove in WSJ: Don’t Believe the Hype About Abortion Its importance in last week’s elections for state office has been vastly overstated.

  |   By Polling+ Staff

Abortion rights advocates and lawmakers hold a press conference before debate of a bill that would restrict abortions after six weeks, at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, on May 16, 2023. The General Assembly was supposed to adjourn on May 11, 2023, but has decided to remain in session to debate a bill, which is nearly identical to a previous restrictive 6 week abortion ban that was struck down as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in January 2023. This bill bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomalies. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

Karl Rove doesn’t accept the latest political wisdom on the GOP and abortion.

Writing in his Wall Street Journal column, Rove headlines: https://www.wsj.com/articles/dont-believe-the-hype-about-abortion-polling-voters-campaign-elections-1a749b63?mod=opinion_lead_pos9

Don’t Believe the Hype About Abortion

Its importance in last week’s elections for state office has been vastly overstated.

Says Rove:

“There’s a tendency in politics to ascribe success and failure to one thing when it’s really more complicated. That has been the case with most coverage of last week’s elections.

 ‘Abortion issues burn GOP‘ screamed ABC News. ‘Democrats see big wins” shouted Roll Call, which said ‘access to abortion” was “front and center.” 

The key example offered for this line of reasoning was Virginia’s state legislative elections, in which Democrats held the Senate, losing only one seat, and flipped the House by picking up three. Vox’s Rachel Cohen described the results in Virginia and elsewhere as “a resounding victory for Democrats and abortion rights supporters.” But is holding a 21-19 majority in the Senate and a 51-49 majority in the House really a resounding victory? 

I think not. Virginia is a blue state that Mr. Biden carried 54% to 44% in 2020. Last week Republicans won in seven House districts Mr. Biden carried in 2020 by up to 10 points and four Senate districts he won by up to 9 points. Democrats didn’t flip a single districtDonald Trump took. These margins don’t fit with the notion that abortion draws large numbers of independents and Republicans to vote for Democratic candidates. 

Two factors probably had a bigger effect than abortion. The commonwealth was redistricted before the election. That benefited Democrats last week, according to Sean Trende, a senior election analyst at RealClearPolitics. Since Virginia is blue, the redistricting resulted in more solidly Democratic districts than solidly Republican ones. Mr. Trende was one of the special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to draw the lines.

Offsetting the Democratic redistricting advantage was the popularity of Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin. An Oct. 16 Washington Post/Schar School poll found that 54% of Virginians approved of the governor’s job performance and 39% disapproved. Only 43% of the same respondents thought Mr. Biden was doing a good job, while 55% didn’t. This favorability advantage for Republicans helped GOP candidates grab districts that normally would have gone Democratic.

Given that their state has trended Democratic for years, Virginia Republicans held up admirably against a challenging map. The GOP would cheer if it pulled off similar margin changes in 2024. If Republicans flipped every U.S. House seat Democrats won by 10 points or less in 2022, the GOP would rack up 50 seats—a 271-seat majority, the biggest GOP seat haul since 1928. 

…Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, pro-abortion groups have gone seven for seven on state ballot measures. To describe last week’s results as “a huge sign of Democrats’ continued momentum”—in the words of a Democratic Party tweet—and principally credit abortion is to oversimplify. Abortion might have helped Democrats sometimes, but the issue is hardly a silver bullet. As Virginia showed, as long as Mr. Biden is the face of the party, pro-life candidates can make gains on Democratic turf if they frame the abortion issue with care.”

Without question Rove’s own record as a political strategist enables him to see trends that others may not. This particular view goes against the grain of post-2023 election analysis. Which makes it interesting.