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(CNN) — For all the sound and fury around Tuesday’s elections, there was one clear signal: Abortion rights are politically popular, no matter where or when they are on the ballot.
And that, no matter how you slice it, is good news for Democrats as the parties plot their strategies ahead of the 2024 elections.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin – the Virginia Republican who believed he could crack one of the most intractable issues in American politics with the promise of “reasonable” abortion restrictions – will not lead a GOP-controlled legislature in the Commonwealth, which denied the party control of the state Senate and put a swift end to both his plan for a 15-week abortion ban and rumors he might pursue a 2024 presidential bid.
Meanwhile, voters in Ohio decisively said they wanted a constitutionally protected right to abortion with the passage of a ballot measure – only a few months after they rejected another measure that would have made it harder for them to shield abortion rights.
And in Kentucky, the Democratic governor defeated his Republican challenger, a state attorney general with close ties to former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after a campaign in which abortion became a flashpoint.
Retaining control of the Virginia state Senate completed a hat trick of invigorating results for Democrats, who have endured a dispiriting week with multiple polls, including a new one from CNN, that show President Joe Biden could face an uphill fight against Trump in case of a 2020 rematch in 2024.
Here are the key election night takeaways on a strong night for Democrats:
As Ohio goes, so goes the nation?
Tuesday night’s election results probably won’t change the equation for Biden in 2024, given Ohio’s recent presidential electoral history. But how about Sen. Sherrod Brown? The Ohio Democrat faces a difficult reelection run next year, but outcomes from the Buckeye State may give him a boost.
Already a proven political winner for Democrats, abortion rights further solidified their place as a driving force in next year’s elections when voters in Ohio, an increasingly conservative state that voted twice for Trump, passed a ballot measure on Tuesday enshrining them in the state constitution.
Red, blue, and purple states alike have green-lit similar proposals, solidifying a trend that defies partisan expectations and could have an outsized influence on next year’s federal elections.
In the end, though, Ohio Republicans might have gotten off easy. Their referendum took place now, during an off-year with no voting for statewide office or president. Other state Republican parties might not be so lucky.
In Arizona, activists are gathering signatures for a 2024 ballot initiative that will ask voters a similar question to Ohio’s this year – a development that already has Republicans there fretting.
“Tonight’s results in Ohio should scare every Republican in a state where an abortion question is on the ballot in 2024,” Arizona Republican strategist Barrett Marson told CNN. “Abortion initiatives are both driving turnout among Democrats and forcing Republicans to talk about an issue of which they are on the wrong side of the electorate.”
A handful of potential swing states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and Colorado, could have abortion rights measures on their ballots alongside the presidential candidates next year.
Glenn Youngkin and Virginia hit a wall
The Youngkin 2024 bandwagon ran off the road on Tuesday, when Virginia voters denied the governor and his party the legislative majorities they craved.
That means no 15-week abortion ban, which Youngkin backed as a “reasonable” solution that, in his telling, was going to douse the rage of Americans who disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.
It also likely puts to bed rumors that Youngkin, who has always insisted he had no ambitions to move north of Virginia, will attempt a late entry into the 2024 GOP presidential primary. The logic there turned on the governor’s ability to craft a coalition that included the far-right, the center-right and the pure centrist swing voter – or something akin to what won him the governor’s mansion in 2021.
But with CNN projecting Virginia Democrats will retain control of the state Senate and flip the House of Delegates, Youngkin’s power appears to have met its limit.
Democrat Andy Beshear won reelection in Kentucky. But who lost?
Andy Beshear won a second term on Tuesday in a state that Trump carried by more than 25 points in 2020.
Now the real fight begins.
Endorsed by Trump but often described as McConnell’s protégé, Daniel Cameron’s defeat will stir a lot of finger-pointing within the Republican Party. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was directing his at the former president shortly after the polls closed, calling the result “another loss for Trump.”
“The losing will only end for Republicans if we rid ourselves of Donald Trump,” Christie tweeted in a preview of his message to primary voters Wednesday night during the third GOP presidential debate. “Trump – loser in ‘18, ‘20, ‘21, ‘22 and now ‘23.”
Trump will likely take a different view of the matter, but the reality might be that neither high-ranking Republican Party leader had a direct effect on the Kentucky electorate, which has routinely given Beshear high marks for his work and appears to have been concerned about Cameron’s stance on abortion.
Last year, Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure that would have denied constitutional protections for abortion. During the campaign, Beshear hammered Cameron, the state attorney general, over his support for the the strict law currently in place, which does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Democrats’ big night – despite Biden’s weak polling
The president’s party notched a series of high-stakes victories on Tuesday night, with Democratic candidates and Democratic issues winning big ticket votes.
Still, it’s been a bummer of a week for Biden, who found himself on the short end of multiple 2024 polls. Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley all came in ahead, if narrowly, in hypothetical matchups against the president, per a new CNN poll of registered voters.
The picture was similarly grim in battleground state surveys, conducted by The New York Times and Siena College and released over the weekend.
But for one night, at least, the Biden campaign believed it had reason to crow.
After Beshear clinched Kentucky and Ohio enshrined abortion rights in its state constitution, Biden’s campaign manager sent out a statement (to reporters) and an email (to supporters) touting the results.
“In hundreds of races since Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court appointments overturned Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen Americans overwhelmingly side with President Biden and Democrats’ vision for this country,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez wrote, after railing against “the dangerous MAGA extremism that has come to define today’s Republican Party at every level.”
Direct votes on hot button issues rarely correlate with candidate performance, even when those candidates are on the right side of public opinion. But another round of elections with abortion rights winning across party lines is plainly good news for a president who, after these last few weeks, can use it.
History-making wins in Rhode Island and Philadelphia
Government will look a little more like the governed after Tuesday night’s results are all in.
To start, Democrat Gabe Amo is the projected winner of Rhode Island’s special congressional election. He will be the first Black person to represent the state in Congress.
“As the first Black man to represent Rhode Island in Congress and a proven, dedicated leader, Gabe will be an important voice in the Democratic Caucus and the House of Representatives,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.
And in Philadelphia, former city councilmember Cherelle Parker will become the first woman to lead the City of Brotherly Love.
She’ll be the city’s fourth Black mayor – and the 100th in its long history.
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