NORFOLK, Va. — When it comes to politics, you've likely heard that Republicans will retake Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
The discussion goes something like this: Americans are dissatisfied with how President Joe Biden is handling the economy. People are struggling as things get more expensive due to high inflation.
It also doesn't help Democrats' case that, historically speaking, the president's party loses seats in Congress in the midterms. The opposing party usually gains control of the House of Representatives, Senate or even both.
Based on those factors, something explosive would have to happen for Democrats to have a chance of keeping control of Congress in the November elections.
*Politico has entered the chat*
The national news outlet reported on a draft Supreme Court opinion that suggests the high court will overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark abortion rights case.
The story sent a shockwave through national politics with prominent national Democrats pushing back against the opinion.
Several national news outlets are reporting that the leaked opinion could reshape the midterm elections by energizing the Democratic base. But will this happen in Virginia? There are a couple of factors to consider.
Majority of Virginians support some form of abortion rights, 2022 polling shows
In the Wason Center's State of the Commonwealth 2022 survey, a large number of Virginians expressed support for some form of abortion rights, but there are nuances. The survey found:
- A solid majority opposes an ultrasound requirement (57% oppose/strongly oppose to 36% support/strongly support).
- A large majority opposes a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected around the 6th week of pregnancy (58% oppose/strongly oppose to 33% support/strongly support).
- A plurality of Virginians opposes the 24-hour waiting period requirement (49% oppose/strongly oppose to 44% support/strongly support).
The survey was conducted in January and February, but it provides insight into where Virginia voters stand on the abortion issue. However, the results don't automatically mean pro-abortion rights voters will turn out this November.
It's worth mentioning that the abortion issue may not be the highest priority for voters in the midterms.
For example, a recent poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist found that Republicans have a 47 to 44% advantage in congressional elections nationwide, with a perceived higher trust on issues such as national security, the economy and inflation. This indicates that economic issues are a higher priority for voters.
This isn't stopping Democrats from framing the abortion issue, though.
'This is a profoundly personal issue': Democrats capitalize on leaked draft opinion
Since Politico's report came out, Virginia and national Democratic leaders have sought to capitalize on its impact, saying the Supreme Court's potential decision raises the stakes of the midterm elections.
“These elections will now determine whether cruel new restrictions on abortion will be put in place: whether states will be allowed to criminalize abortion and ban it even in cases of rape or incest," National Democratic leaders said in a joint statement.
The statement lines up with what the Democratic Party of Virginia is saying. The party co-signed a joint statement, along with 52 other state parties, calling for people to elect candidates that will protect abortion rights at the state and federal levels.
If this issue is going to change the race, look at Virginia's second and seventh congressional districts, which are predicted to be Virginia's most competitive in 2022, according to the Cook Political Report and 270toWin.
Democrats Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, who are seeking reelection in those respective districts, responded to the report by reiterating their support for abortion rights.
“Roe v. Wade has been law since 1973, and I am deeply concerned by reports that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn this decision that protects a woman’s right to choose," Luria said in a statement. "If the leaked decision is made final, women across the country would be stripped of their constitutional rights to make choices about their own bodies.
And Spanberger said: "The United States of America should not be a country where women are dying from back-alley abortions. This is a profoundly personal issue with real consequences for the lives of American women."
With the midterm election still months away, it's too early to tell if the leaked draft opinion will affect those races. But if the abortion issue motivates pro-abortion rights voters in November, that could make or break the outcome. Every vote counts.
A lot can change between now and then, too. As the Associated Press reported, the draft doesn't represent the final decision, which is expected later this year.