Democrats Believe This Is Their Winning Strategy in 2024 Election

Democrats Believe This Is Their Winning Strategy in 2024 Election

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The Florida Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling on April 1, upholding a 15-week abortion ban that was signed into law in 2022. The ruling paved the way for a six-week abortion ban to take effect on May 1.

A second ruling on the same day allowed an initiative to amend the state constitution to guarantee abortion access to be placed before voters. An abortion advocacy group had already secured the required signatures, so a constitutional question on abortion will be on the Florida ballot in November.

Barely a week later, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions in the state. Three days later, the Biden campaign initiated a seven-figure ad buy in the Grand Canyon State, including a billboard that reads, “Abortion is banned in Arizona thanks to Donald Trump. He won’t stop until it’s banned nationwide. #TrumpsAbortionBan.”

Democrats are leveraging abortion as a central issue in the 2024 election, and they are waging that campaign through ballot initiatives in key battleground states.

The theory is simple, according to political analyst Keith Nahigian. “Ballot questions help to get more independent expenditures for ‘get out the vote’ campaigns,” he told The Epoch Times.

In Arizona, a campaign is underway for a ballot measure amending the state constitution to provide the “fundamental right” to abortion up to the point a baby could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks. It also would allow later abortions to save the mother’s life or to protect her physical or mental health.

In Nevada, a petition drive is in the works to include an amendment on abortion access. In Colorado and Maryland, voters will decide on abortion-related  amendments in November.

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“The Democrats’ strategy heading into this election cycle was to put these measures on the ballot in every big swing state,” Phoenix-based Republican strategist Marcus Dell’Artino told The Epoch Times.

Republicans are using the same tactic with election integrity—placing related measures on the ballot in nine states, including in Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Both sides appear to believe their efforts will aid them in the fall and ballot measures themselves are a successful way to further a cause.

In the 2022 election, voters in 38 states decided on 140 statewide ballot measures, according to Ballotpedia. Voters approved 69 percent of the measures and rejected 31 percent.

The movement to amend state constitutions to guarantee abortion access is a calculated strategy by the Democratic Party to rally voters to the November election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee laid out the strategy in an April 5 memo.

The committee attributed a ballot measure to add abortion to the state constitution in Ohio for the “historic” turnout during an off-year election in November 2023. Voters in the state passed the measure 57 percent to 43 percent—a margin of 14 percent. President Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in both 2016 and 2020.

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(L–R) Arizona Supreme Court Justices William G. Montgomery, John R. Lopez IV, Ann A. Scott Timmer, Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel, Clint Bolick, and James Beene listen to oral arguments in Phoenix on April 20, 2021. (Matt York/AP Photo, File)

“When abortion is on the ballot, voters turn out to defend their rights,” the memo states. “Seven battleground states are on track to have abortion measures on the ballot in 2024 … this further guarantees that reproductive freedom will remain a driving issue for voters this November.”

Capitalizing on Momentum

Momentum around the issue of access to abortion has been building since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, the seminal decision that, for decades, limited restrictions states can impose on the procedure.

Within 18 months of the Dobbs decision, seven states put abortion-related ballot questions before the public. In red and blue states alike, voters came down on the side of access to abortion.

Voters in Kansas voted to stick with the status quo, which provides the right to abortion in the state constitution, while Kentucky voted to reject an amendment that said there was no constitutional right to an abortion.

Montana voters rejected a measure that would have declared a child born alive at any stage of pregnancy to be a legal person and required medical care for that child. The measure also included criminal penalties for health care providers who violated the “born alive” portion of the law, by establishing a maximum of a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison.

Meanwhile, voters in California, Michigan, Vermont, and Ohio amended their state constitutions to include a right to “reproductive freedom,” defined to include abortion and contraception.

Democrats have hammered the issue for over two years while Republicans have been slow to admit that many of their own voters don’t favor a near-complete abortion ban.

In Virginia, Democrats took advantage of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s interest in a 15-week abortion ban to campaign on abortion access in 2023. They retook control of the state’s General Assembly, prompting prominent Democrats to make abortion a centerpiece of the 2024 campaign.

“The prospect of a national abortion ban is real,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in December 2023.

Ms. Whitmer launched the Fight Like Hell PAC in June 2023 to raise campaign funds for Democratic candidates who are “unapologetic in their fight for working people and their basic freedoms.”

The Biden campaign released an emotionally charged ad on April 8 featuring a Texas woman who was denied an abortion after being told her baby would not survive birth. Over the woman’s tearful sobs, text appears on the screen:“Donald Trump did this.”

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Supporters of Ohio Issue 1 cheer as results come in at a watch party in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2023. The constitutional amendment codified the right to contraception, fertility treatment, and abortion—up to the point of fetal viability, while permitting restrictions after. (Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

Arizona Democrats capitalized on the issue immediately after their state supreme court’s April 9 ruling.

“The girls today and the young women do not have the rights that we once did because of Donald Trump,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said on April 9. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless.”

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who was narrowly elected in 2022, says her victory was aided by backlash over the Dobbs decision. She said the battle for abortion access will cause independents and pro-abortion Republicans to vote for Democrats again in 2024.

“If past is prologue, this is going to have a deep and lasting impact on politics in Arizona,” Ms. Mayes said on April 9.

Republicans, now tuned in to the issue, are treading lightly.

President Trump said on April 10 that the Arizona Supreme Court decision “needs to be straightened out.”

“And I’m sure that the governor and everybody else will bring it back into reason and that will be taken care of,” he said.

Arizona Republican Kari Lake, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said the court’s decision was “out of line with where the people of the state are.”

“The issue is less about banning abortion and more about saving babies,” she said.

President Biden carried Arizona and Nevada by 2.4 and 0.4 percent respectively in 2020.

President Trump won Florida by 3.4 percentage points in 2020, but Democrats are hyping the prospect of a turnaround there.

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Voters arrive at a campaign event in Keene, N.H., on Jan. 20, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats had a cash advantage of more than $15 million over Republicans as of March 31. “We definitely see Florida as ‘in play,’” Biden–Harris campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez told reporters during a campaign call on April 2.

Election Integrity

Republicans have chosen election integrity as a theme for 2024 and have lined up ballot initiatives to match.

The issue is a natural one for President Trump, who has long maintained that the 2020 election was stolen and frequently voices concern that the 2024 election could be tainted by fraud.

Some 76 percent of Republicans believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, according to a January 2022 poll by Quinnipiac University. Just half of Republican voters have confidence that votes will be counted accurately at the national level in the upcoming election, according to a December 2023 Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center poll.

Michael Whatley and Lara Trump, the new leadership team at the Republican National Committee, quickly announced an increased focus on election integrity when they took the helm in March. That included the creation of an election integrity division within the organization.

Ms. Trump said she also wants to see the RNC’s program for training poll watchers expanded nationwide.

Such measures are needed “to reassure people in a time like we’re in right now, where they really feel like there wasn’t something quite right about the 2020 election, and people still have a lot of unanswered questions,” she said.

“We’re not just gonna have to fight fire with fire. We’re gonna have to fight fire with dynamite.”

Voters in nine states, including four swing states, will decide on questions related to election integrity in November.

Wisconsin voters, who decided on April 2 to bar the use of private donations to fund election operations, will vote in November on a constitutional amendment stipulating that only U.S. citizens may vote. Voters in Idaho and Kentucky will both weigh banning noncitizens from voting.

Florida voters will consider a referendum to prevent candidates from receiving public campaign financing if they agree to spending limits.

Arizona voters will decide on a legislative referendum that requires partisan primary elections and bars the use of primaries in which the top two or top four candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. That system, sometimes called a jungle primary, is often favored by Democrats.

In Nevada, voters will consider the opposite in a question posed by Democrats. Silver State voters will decide whether to adopt a nonpartisan “top-five” system for primary elections and to allow ranked-choice voting for general elections.

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People vote during the South Carolina Republican presidential primary at in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 24, 2024. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Issue Ownership

Ballot measures in national elections may be most useful in defining the stakes of the race by keeping hot-button issues in the public’s view.

“You can’t make people think anything, but you can make them think about things,” said Nicholas Higgins, a political science professor at Northern Greenville University. Political parties tend to put social issues on the ballot in part to force attention to matters in which they have some advantage.

“If the media talks a lot about these things, which I think in some states might be the case, then there is a potential for a small positive turnout,” Mr. Higgins told The Epoch Times.

“Biden, and therefore Democrats generally, are suffering from an enthusiasm deficit,” said Donald Nieman, professor of political science at Binghamton University.

“Ballot measures on abortion and marijuana legalization will energize core Democratic constituencies … which could be a game changer,” he told The Epoch Times.

That worries Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who said stories about women having difficulty getting abortions could drive a lot of the media coverage between now and the election.

“I think there’s going to be an impact on the election,” Mr. Newhouse told The Epoch Times. He doesn’t think Democrats will flip Florida, but “putting it in play is certainly a possibility.”

Other pundits aren’t convinced that many Republican voters will split their ticket.

“I don’t see it being the great equalizer that the Democrats are hoping it will be,” said Jim Lee, president and CEO of Susquehanna Polling and Research.

“They‘ll vote Trump, and then they’ll vote to codify abortion in the state constitution,” he told The Epoch Times.

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Former President Donald Trump speaks in Atlanta on April 10, 2024. (Jason Allen/AP Photo)

More Pressing Issues

With so many pressing issues facing voters in November, it remains unclear how much impact ballot initiatives will have on the presidential election—although turnout will be key.

“The polling consistently shows the economy, inflation, immigration, and public safety are the key four issues that Americans want action on,” Mr. Lee said.

Strengthening the U.S. economy is the top concern of 73 percent of voters, according to a nationwide February poll from Pew Research Center. Defending against terrorism is second at 63 percent, followed by reducing the influence of money in politics at 62 percent. Reducing health care costs, improving education, and making Social Security financially sound tied for fourth place at 60 percent each.
Only 9.6 percent of Floridians said abortion access was their most important issue in an April 11 poll by Emerson College. The economy, housing affordability, and immigration all ranked higher.

In Arizona, where gasoline prices have topped $4, GOP campaign consultant Barrett Marson said that if Republicans aren’t talking about immigration and the economy, they risk losing.

“We are overwhelmed with issues that impact us and will for the next four years and beyond,” Mr. Marson told The Epoch Times. “This is going to impact races up and down the ballot.”

Austin Alonzo, John Haughey, Nanette Holt, and Nathan Worcester contributed to this report. 

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