The U.S. Supreme Court’s pending ruling on national abortion law is unlikely to significantly impact races up and down the ballot for Congress and the General Assembly in North Carolina, political experts say.
That analysis lands despite claims by Democrats that they have found an issue to run on headed into a midterm cycle that is shaping up to strongly favor Republicans.
“The fundamental dynamics of the 2022 races are still dismal for Democrats,” Dr. David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, told Carolina Journal in a May 5 interview. “It is unlikely that President Biden will significantly improve his approval ratings. Inflation is unlikely to come down significantly. Gas prices will remain high.
“Voters tend to vote when they are aggrieved,” McLennan added. “Republican voters have a lot to be aggrieved about beyond abortion — parent’s rights in education, economic concerns, and crime.”
Dr. Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury, largely agreed in an interview with CJ, saying, “Republicans naturally have the electoral advantage this fall, with the midterm fundamentals of the president’s party suffering at the polls, along with the economic dynamics, most notably inflation, on their side.”
Late in the day May 2, a draft ruling penned by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico. That draft, if it becomes the final ruling, would overturn the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion. Instead, the issue would be returned to state legislatures to set policy.
The draft ruling has stoked the anger of abortion activists, who have targeted the homes of the Supreme Court’s six conservative justices for protests. The issue has also reignited far-left calls for doing away with the filibuster in the U.S. Senate and “packing” the high court with liberal justices. Activists are even targeting churches on Mother’s Day for protest.
The leak is believed to be an attempt at strong-arming the court into reversing course on its Roe ruling. Democrats in North Carolina have refused to condemn the unprecedented leak.
The issue is likely to motivate the bases of both political parties, including Republicans’ pro-life base that has worked for five decades to reverse Roe. But more sweeping impact on electoral outcomes is less certain, experts say.
One Democratic pollster who spoke anonymously to Politico, for example, said the abortion issue might “help at the margins” but “to hold the House or Senate, we need inflation to go away.”
In a recent Civitas poll, likely voters in North Carolina reported that inflation, election integrity, jobs and the economy, and taxes and government spending were their top priorities.
McLennan said that if the leaked draft does end up being the court’s final ruling, that development may compel some Democrats and pro-choice unaffiliated voters to turn out at the polls in larger numbers. It may also prompt higher turnout among young voters, who are more likely to support the Roe decision as well as support Democratic candidates.
“I would look at swing districts with a high percentage of unaffiliated women to perhaps have the highest impact from a SCOTUS ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade,” McLennan said. “Suburban districts like N.C. House 36 and 37 might be examples of districts where the ruling could impact the race, or the 13th District for the U.S. House of Representatives. In that race, it is likely that the Democratic and Republican candidates will make abortion at least one of the central issues of the race.
“It is worth noting that, according to most polling, less than 10% of Americans identify as single issue voters and only a percentage of those have abortion as their issue,” McLennan said.
In addition, the five-month timespan between now and the general election also means a lot can happen to change the equation.
“How both sides use this within their arsenal of campaign warfare, I think it’s just too soon to speculate what impact it will have,” said Bitzer.
While Democrats in N.C. are hoping the issue will galvanize their base, Republicans say the same will happen with their base.
“The Democratic Party is completely out of step with the American people on abortion issues, as strong majorities of Americans have for years opposed the extreme pro-abortion policies that Democrats are desperate to defend,” said N.C. GOP chairman Michael Whatley in a statement emailed to Carolina Journal.
“When it comes to the 2022 election cycle, the people of North Carolina and across the country will not forget who gave them the highest inflation in 40 years, record gas prices, and a teetering economy,” Whatley added. “Biden and the Democrats are wrecking this country, the voters know it, and they will make that clear up and down the ballot in November.”