Nov 7 (Reuters) – Abortion will be on the ballot again on Tuesday, as Ohioans vote on whether to guarantee abortion rights and Virginia voters decide whether to must give Republicans the power to impose new limits on the procedure.
With the first race for the presidential nomination In Iowa, with less than ten weeks to go, Republicans and Democrats are closely watching Tuesday’s election for clues about where the American electorate stands ahead of the 2024 campaign for the White House and Congress.
For Democrats, the elections in Ohio and Virginia will provide a test of whether abortion remains as politically potent as in the 2022 midterm elections, when voter anger over the Supreme Court’s ruling United States to eliminate a national law helped the party avoid a Republican landslide.
For Republicans, the two states provide a strategic testing ground after the party struggled to identify a winning message on the issue last year.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Kentucky and Mississippi will elect their governors, while voters across the country will choose mayors and other local officials.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, one of the few Democrats to lead a state that voted for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, is once again defying his home state’s conservative streak in his re-election campaign.
Beshear faces Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who would be Kentucky’s first black governor. Despite his party affiliation, Beshear enjoys strong approval ratings after leading the state through the coronavirus pandemic and a series of natural disasters while overseeing economic growth.
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is seeking another four-year term. His Democratic challenger, Brandon Presley, a former mayor and first cousin of singer Elvis Presley, led Reeves, but he faces an uphill climb in a state that voted for Trump over Democratic President Joe Biden by more than 16 percentage points in 2020.
THE ABORTION BATTLEGROUND
Ohio is the last battleground over abortionalmost a year and a half since the Supreme Court’s decision.
Last year, abortion rights groups scored a string of victories putting abortion referendums on the ballot, including in conservative states.
They doubled down on this strategy. In addition to Tuesday’s amendment in Ohio that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, similar ballot measures are advancing in several states for 2024, including the swing states of Arizona and Florida.
Anti-abortion forces campaigned against the Ohio amendment as too extreme, while abortion rights groups warned that rejecting it would pave the way for a strict ban.
The Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature previously approved a six-week limit, but the law is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge in the conservative state’s Supreme Court.
In August, voters rejected a separate Republican-backed referendum that would have raised the threshold for approval of constitutional amendments — including the question on Tuesday’s ballot — from 50% to 60%.
In Virginia, all 40 Senate seats and all 100 House of Delegates seats are up for grabs. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, while Republicans have a slight advantage in the House.
The Democrats sought making abortion the priority issue, warning that a Republican victory would result in a ban. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he would maintain a 15-week limit on abortion if Republicans took control of the Legislature, a move he called a reasonable compromise that could offer a model for Republicans in 2024.
Republicans have focused on public safety, running ads claiming Democrats would defund the police and go soft on criminals. Some 40% of those questioned a September Reuters/Ipsos poll said Republicans had the best approach to fighting crime, compared to 32% who chose Democrats on this issue.
A Republican victory would boost Youngkin’s growing national profile; his political action committee invested millions of dollars in legislative races. Some Republicans wary of Trump have touted Youngkin as a potential late entry into the 2024 presidential race, although the governor has said he has no plans to run for the White House.
Biden added his weight to the race last week, throwing his support behind 16 Democrats in competitive races in the House of Representatives and seven in the Senate, while sending a fundraising appeal to his supporters.
Reporting by Joseph Axe; Additional reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Aurora Ellis
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