Sat. May 18th, 2024

Biden allies dust off Bush’s 2004 playbook, subbing abortion for gay marriage on the ballot

By 37ci3 Apr6,2024

WASHINGTON — Twenty years after George W. Bush won reelection with ballot initiatives that focused voters around a popular cultural issue, Democrats are dusting off his playbook and trying a similar strategy to keep Donald Trump out of office.

In 2004, Bush’s team took over public opposition to same-sex marriage, strategist Karl Rove encouraged his allies to initiate ballot bans in key states, hoping to rouse voters and allow the president to ride the coattails of the measures for re-election. This worked.

George W. Bush and Joe Biden in 2001.
Then-President George W. Bush with then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at a bipartisan meeting with White congressional leaders in 2001.Mike Theiler/AFP via Getty Images file

Now, President Joe Biden’s allies are outraged by the end of Roe Wade and are putting abortion rights on the ballot in swing states like Arizona and Nevada, as well as red-leaning states like Florida and Montana, where key Senate seats are located. is up for grabs.

“It’s the same strategy we used in 2004 with the culture wars — in reverse,” said Mike Madrid, a political strategist who worked on Bush’s re-election bid. “It used to be that culture wars were where Democrats went to die. Not so anymore. They are winning in these matters.”

Where Democrats went to die was the culture wars. Not so anymore. They are winning in these matters.

Mike Madrid, political strategist

The goal: Register and remove Americans who are passionate about abortion rights and have won prizes in presidential and congressional races. Abortion rights It has already proven to be a boon for Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections and early elections Since Roe was overturned that summer.

In 2004, Madrid said Rove realized Republicans were “scraping the bottom of the barrel” with white rural voters, who historically lean Democratic. They had to encourage evangelists and find new voters. So he secured ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage in states like Ohio and Arkansas to underscore the conflict with the divided Democratic Party on the issue. Voters overwhelmingly supported ballot measures against gay marriage, and Bush carried those states to narrow victories.

“It was a very big part of the strategy,” Madrid said. “You’re both finding new voters and bringing in crossover voters.”

Today, he said, abortion could provide similar fuel for Biden and Democrats, galvanize non-regular or new voters and primarily prey on “white, Republican, college-educated women who voted against the party because of the loss of abortion rights.”

Still trying to build on an intact ballot winning streak Since Roe was overturned, Democrats and progressive groups are considering abortion-rights ballot initiatives in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Nevada and Arkansas. Proposed amendments in New York and Maryland, where legislatures control the process, have already been finalized for November.

“It will help [Democrats]. There is no question. Will it deliver to Florida? No,” Madrid said, though he argued that abortion-rights ballot measures could deliver Arizona or Nevada. “Even if you get a few points of Republican women with a base like that in red-hot North Carolina or Georgia, that’s the whole game.”

“Biden has more benefits than Bush”

Sarah Fagen, chief strategist for Bush’s 2004 campaign, said same-sex marriage ballot initiatives helped Bush that year and abortion will help Biden even more this fall.

“Bush did not perform at a lower level than his base. Biden is undermining his base dramatically,” Fagen told NBC News. “Every angle is needed to motivate their base and come out. And that’s one of the best things they have to deal with, especially young women.”

He said cultural issues are powerful activism tools for constituencies that aren’t excited about candidates.

“It is difficult to win voters back. A large percentage of registered people do not vote. Some of them are evangelists. Some of them are pro-choice women. And so people who don’t like the candidates or aren’t motivated by the candidates are motivated by these particular issues,” Fagen said. “Biden has more benefits than Bush because of the importance of the issue to voters.”

After the end of Roe v. Wade, he added that “abortion is a much more prominent issue than I thought gay marriage was in 2004.”

Ezra Levin, co-founder of Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group collecting signatures Arizona initiativehe said putting abortion on the ballot would put a “high burden” on volunteers, motivate the Democratic base and appeal to swing voters.

“We’ve seen in the past the power of strategically placed election initiatives to define what the election is about and increase voter turnout,” Levin said. “By getting popular referendums on abortion rights on the ballot this year in battleground states, Democrats can boost primary turnout and win over skeptical swing voters.”

A nascent abortion ballot measure in Montana, a red state, could help Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in what both parties see as a potentially crucial race for Senate control.

The measure, already on the November ballot, could also help Democrats in Maryland, where moderate former GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s entry into the Senate race has made the election competitive despite its reliably blue state status.

“Independent voters are going to be thinking about abortion rights when they go to the polls — and they’re going to vote for both this ballot initiative and the Democratic candidates who support it,” Levin said, calling it “an effective way to disenfranchise Donald Trump and MAGA.” Government in November.

Can Abortion Give Democrats Arizona Again?

For Democrats, the best opportunity for such a measure to drum up activity may be in Arizona, where a proposed amendment — which would have created a “fundamental right” to abortion care until fetal viability — would effectively repeal it. current 15 week ban.

In 2020, Biden won the hotly contested state by just 10,457 votes. There is also the possibility of a Senate race this year between Democratic Republican Ruben Gallego and a pro-Trump Republican. Lake Kari to fill the seat of retiring independent Sen. Kyrsten Sineman.

The scene was highlighted Wednesday night by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — the co-chair of the Biden campaign — in the state that signed the repeal laws. most of the restrictions on abortion care in her state – during which he highlighted abortion rights as one of the most crucial issues in the presidential race.

“If we have Donald Trump’s second term, all our progress in Michigan, all the work you’ve done here in Arizona is at risk. A national abortion ban will erase all these steps,” he said.

Asked if he was concerned that Arizona voters might vote for abortion rights but against Biden, Whitmer said it was his job to make sure that didn’t happen.

“My concern is that people think it’s settled. And it’s, you know, maybe you don’t need to vote for President Biden at the top of the ticket. My job is to remind people that it has changed a lot. We know Republicans want a national abortion ban, we know they want to take away those rights,” he said.

Trump has his turn jumped around the issue. He is quick to take credit for building a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that overturned Roe. But there it is criticized Florida’s six-week ban has also voiced support for abortion restrictions without taking a public stance.

Troubles in Nevada and Florida

In Nevada, legal and political nuances limit the potential impact of ballot measures to help the Biden campaign or Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who faces a tough re-election bid against likely Republican challenger Sam Brown.

In Nevada, abortion rights are protected until fetal viability, and advocates want to strengthen protections in the state constitution to make it more difficult to outlaw it in the future. Under state law, voters must pass a proposed constitutional amendment in two consecutive elections, so even if the measure passes in November, it would have to do so again in 2026.

“We actually have a much steeper, uphill climb to get the stakes right,” a prominent reproductive rights advocate in the state told Nevada voters.

“Finally, there are some statutory protections here, so we have to trust that those constitutional protections will be effective, as we know they will be.” But I don’t think it is so clear for the voters,” said the organizer. “For voters, it’s more motivating when the odds are clearer. So if their abortion bans are in jeopardy or are currently in place, that will obviously motivate voters more.

On the other hand, just two years ago, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto defeated GOP challenger Adam Laxalt by 8,000 votes. Exit polls to show the abortion issue helped him.

With Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning as anti-abortion foes to narrowly win re-election in 2022, the prospects for a significant increase in voter turnout in Florida, which has trended red in recent years, are more dubious. The Sunshine State’s powerful GOP has a nearly 1 million voter registration lead over Democrats — limiting the possibility that abortion rights measures will be the deciding factor in a political sea change in the state’s top-ticket races.

The Biden campaign is nonetheless leaning on the abortion rights controversy and pushing ballot initiatives, even claiming that the Florida measure could make the state “winnable” for Biden.

“Make no mistake, Donald Trump will do everything in his power to implement a national abortion ban if he is re-elected,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told reporters. “The only thing standing between Americans and a national abortion ban is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House.”

Trump, meanwhile, said Tuesday that his campaign would finally file the “next week” abortion issue.

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