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Did the Democrats make a losing bet on abortion?



CNN

Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Democratic strategists insisted the 2022 terms had fundamentally changed.

Rather than an election about the economy – focused on rising gas prices and inflation – they argued that the election would now be a referendum on abortion rights and that Republicans will seek to limit women’s choices.

Democrats put their money where their mouth was.

In October alone, Democratic campaigns and groups spent $214 million on TV ads mentioning abortion, according to a CNN analysis of AdImpact data. This accounted for almost half (45%) of all advertising money spent by the party during this period.

And that eclipsed ad spend on other topics. The second biggest issue for Democrats was crime, with the party spending $79 million on the issue, less than 17% of its overall ad spend last month.

With just six days to go, it looks like that gamble could have been a huge mistake.

In a new CNN national poll, 51% of likely voters said the economy was the most important issue in deciding their vote for Congress. Abortion comes second, but only 15% cite it as the most important problem.

This is consistent with many other polls in which the economy is by far the top issue on voters’ minds.

That should worry Democrats, who spent less than $68 million on ads mentioning taxes and less than $18 million on inflation ads in October. By contrast, Republicans spent nearly $144 million on ads referring to taxation over the same period — the party’s biggest issue — and nearly $77 million on ads mentioning inflation.

President Joe Biden’s White House is trying to transform its message to address the economy.

“@POTUS’ top priority is reducing costs for the American people,” tweeted the official White House account on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s going after Big Pharma for allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, cap drug costs for seniors at the pharmacy, and lower health insurance premiums for people under the Affordable Care Act.”

All of the above isn’t to say that abortion isn’t an important issue in the election — especially for the rank and file of the Democratic Party. Among likely Democratic voters in the CNN poll, 29% named abortion as their top issue, while 27% chose the economy.

If Democratic base turnout explodes, the decision to focus so much ad spending on abortion may look like money well spent.

But the data on the primacy of economics in the minds of voters at least raises the possibility that Democrats overestimated how much of a problem abortion would be in terms of winning over convincing voters.

Point: Elections are a matter of choice. The Democrats may have made the wrong choice.




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