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Roe-ing Against the Tide
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Roe-ing Against the Tide

Abortion once again costs Republicans electoral victories in the states.

Happy Wednesday! There are just 141 fun-filled days between now and baseball’s 2024 Opening Day—and your Morning Dispatchers are in the throes of postulating which team will land baseball’s greatest two-way player, Shohei Ohtani, in free agency. While this doesn’t technically count as an official “Let Us Know,” from now until a decision is made we will gladly accept all Shohei speculations and predictions in the comments. (As long as it’s not the Dodgers. That’s just unfair to the sport. – J.S.)

(Yesterday, a new report suggested the Chicago Cubs “may be the most aggressive team for [Ohtani’s] services.” -D.G.)

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Thousands of Gazans evacuated to southern Gaza between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday along a humanitarian corridor secured by Israeli Defense Forces—the same day that Israel observed a national day of mourning to mark one month since Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack that killed 1,400 Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a general ceasefire without Hamas’ release of the more than 200 hostages it holds, though he suggested he was open to “little pauses” in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. “If you care for yourselves and your loved ones, move South according to our instructions,” the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson tweeted. “You can be sure Hamas leaders have already taken care of their own needs.” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday the Biden administration is preparing a $320 million transfer of precision-guided bombs to Israel. 
  • U.S. and NATO officials said on Tuesday their countries would no longer honor the Cold War-era Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe after Russia announced it was officially pulling out of the agreement. (Russia notably suspended its participation in the agreement in 2007.) The treaty, signed in 1990, set limits on the number of conventional (non-nuclear) military forces and weapons that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could have on the continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains—designed to prevent either side from amassing forces for a quick attack. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Poland signed a nearly $5 billion deal for London to provide Warsaw with a next generation air-defense system as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 
  • Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal, a member of the country’s socialist party who has led the country since 2015, resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday as allegations of corruption against his administration intensified. Authorities searched government offices and issued an arrest warrant for four individuals—including Costa’s chief of staff—as the prosecutor general’s office investigates the administration’s handling of lithium mining and hydrogen projects. Portugal’s president may now either allow the Socialists to form a new government or dissolve the parliament and call for an early election.
  • David Weiss, the special counsel investigating President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a closed-door hearing, asserting once again that he has full authority over the case. Weiss’ opening statement—released publicly—suggested he would use his testimony to address his power to bring charges in the case against the younger Biden, and to rebut claims from whistleblowers that Justice Department officials had attempted to delay the process. After a plea deal fell apart earlier this summer, Weiss charged Biden with crimes related to owning a firearm while addicted to and using illegal drugs. 
  • Ohioans voted 57 t0 43 percent to enshrine abortion protections into their state constitution on Tuesday, passing a ballot initiative and demonstrating once again the motivating power of the issue of abortion at the ballot box. Virginia Democrats were projected to win control of the House of Delegates and maintain control of the state senate in Tuesday’s elections, while Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky (a Democrat) and Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi (a Republican) both won reelection.
  • Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday endorsed former President Donald Trump—her former boss during her time as White House press secretary—for the 2024 GOP nomination for president. “It’s not a question between right versus left anymore. It’s normal versus crazy, and President Biden and the left are doubling down on crazy,” she said. “The time has come to return to the normal policies of the Trump era which created a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America, and that’s why I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for President.” Also on Monday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, describing him as someone who “can win” the 2024 election, unlike Trump.
  • The super PAC associated with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan—who chairs the No Labels organization—released an ad criticizing both Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy and positioning Hogan as a Reaganesque figure who will secure “peace through strength.” The ad may be a signal the No Labels group is looking to mount a third-party presidential bid.
  • The House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted 234-188 to approve a resolution censuring Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib for “promoting false narratives” related to Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel. Republican Rep. Richard McCormick of Georgia, who filed the measure, cited a social media video recently posted by Tlaib using the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which many believe calls for the eradication of the state of Israel. A total of 22 Democrats voted in favor of the censure, while four Republicans voted against.
  • Local officials in Los Angeles said a 69-year-old Jewish man, Paul Kessler, died earlier this week after he fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement on Sunday in a “physical altercation” with a pro-Palestinian protester over the Israel-Hamas war. The protester involved reportedly stayed with Kessler and told officials he had called 911. The Ventura County sheriff said Tuesday there had been conflicting reports from witnesses about what occurred prior to Kessler’s fall, and had not ruled out the possibility Kessler was the victim of a hate crime.

Abortion Still a Winner for Dems at the Ballot Box 

Kentucky's incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is joined by his wife, Britainy Beshear, Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, and his family as he delivers his victory speech to a crowd at an election night event at Old Forrester's Paristown Hall on November 7, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Stephen Cohen/Getty Images)
Kentucky's incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is joined by his wife, Britainy Beshear, Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, and his family as he delivers his victory speech to a crowd at an election night event at Old Forrester's Paristown Hall on November 7, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Stephen Cohen/Getty Images)

As has become a predictable tradition, the national media’s coverage previewing yesterday’s state elections emphasized how they could be a harbinger of what’s to come in next year’s presidential contest. Various races were described as a “national litmus test” or a “preview of 2024”—and while off-year elections can be over-analyzed, last night delivered a clear takeaway: Abortion remains a winner for Democrats at the ballot box and a liability for Republicans.

Following a run of state-level victories for abortion access in Kansas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Democrats continued that streak yesterday in state elections and ballot initiatives across the country. Ohio voters passed an amendment enshrining abortion rights into their state constitution, and though abortion wasn’t directly on the ballot in Kentucky or Virginia, elections in both states delivered Republican losses and Democratic gains following campaigns that featured a focus on the issue.

In a typical cycle, Virginia legislative elections wouldn’t garner significant coverage or voter turnout—no statewide offices were on the ballot, making it an “off-off” year—but all 140 seats in the commonwealth’s general assembly were up for grabs. GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin—whose gubernatorial victory in 2021 sparked early speculations about his future presidential prospects—barnstormed across the state campaigning for Republicans to take full control of the general assembly, drawing outsized attention and significance to the election. Democrats and Republicans funneled more than $150 million into the races—30 percent more than in 2019, the last cycle where the entire general assembly was up for election.

Suffice to say, Youngkin’s plan didn’t work, despite his previous electoral success in the state. Not only did Democrats retain control of the state Senate, they took back control of the House of Delegates. With a few races still too close to call, the tallies as of this morning show Democrats with a 21-17 majority in the Senate and a 51-47 majority in the House.

When elected in 2021, Youngkin helped Republicans flip the lower chamber red and sweep statewide offices in a state that President Joe Biden won in 2020 by just over 10 points. “We learned in 2021 how to win elections,” Youngkin, armed in his signature red vest, said at a closing rally in Leesburg on Monday night. “How do you win elections? Get more votes than the other guy.” To secure the governor’s mansion, Youngkin tapped into the anger and frustration of parents aggravated by COVID policies like school lockdowns and masking in 2021. He reprised that strategy this time around, holding a series of “Parents Matter” talks where he hammered home his message that “children belong to the parents and not the state.” Youngkin took a “Secure Your Vote” bus tour, stumping for candidates and encouraging Republicans to take advantage of early and absentee voting—making more than 100 stump appearances for candidates. He also raised nearly $30 million since his election and funneled much of it to state GOP candidates. 

Heading into Tuesday, it was an open question whether parental rights and education would be as motivating a pitch for voters now farther removed from the pandemic. Plus, Democrats had a motivating issue of their own that Youngkin didn’t have to contend with (and actively avoided discussing) in 2021: the end of Roe v. Wade

This time around, Youngkin made abortion a centerpiece of his messaging campaign, pushing a 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother—in hopes of planting a flag for Republicans and demonstrating that the party could win by coalescing around “reasonable limits” on abortion. “I think this is one where Virginians come together around reasonableness,” Youngkin said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week. “It then allows us to move onto really important topics,” he added, citing his ambitions to address issues like education and public safety with a unified, Republican general assembly.

Democrats also leaned into abortion, however, portraying Virginia Republicans as extremists who would take reproductive rights away from women in the state, where abortion is currently legal through 26 weeks of pregnancy. “Do you really trust anything Republicans say on this,” Susan Swecker, chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, said last month. Louise Lucas, a Democratic state senator, echoed that message last week: “From attacking our freedoms to trying to jail women and their doctors, MAGA Republican extremists are out of control.” And Lucas wasn’t alone—40 percent of Democratic candidates’ ads mentioned abortion, according to AdImpact, an advertising tracking firm.

The strategy seems to have worked. “We had hoped for a stronger outcome this evening but are proud of the effort all of our candidates put into these extremely competitive districts,” Dave Rexrode, a senior adviser to Youngkin, said late last night. Indeed, the defeat for Virginia Republicans—and by extension, Youngkin himself—will likely end any remaining “Youngkin 2024” chatter, which hinged on a strong blue-to-red flip.

Abortion was also on the ballot in Ohio. “Ohio Issue 1,” as the measure was called, would amend the state’s constitution to include a “right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” and “only allow the State to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman’s treating physician to be viable and only if the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.” The amendment passed 57 percent to 43 percent, making Ohio the first Republican-controlled state to enshrine abortion protections since the end of Roe. After the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision, a six-week abortion ban signed into Ohio law in 2019 snapped into place—but was quickly put on hold due to a court challenge. The new amendment will take effect 30 days after yesterday’s election, and will then allow pro-choice legal groups to sue to repeal abortion restrictions as unconstitutional.

“Today, Ohioans made clear that abortion is a winning issue,” said Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, a coalition of pro-abortion-access organizations that supported the amendment. Pro-choice groups raised nearly triple what pro-life groups did in the homestretch of the campaign, and outspent their opponents in ad buys. Last night, activists took a victory lap. “Ohio is not a red state, we’re purple as hell, baby,” said Kellie Copeland, the executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio. President Joe Biden also went out of his way to praise the results. “Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy,” he said in a statement

Pro-life groups fighting the amendment lamented the vote. “Our hearts are broken tonight not because we lost an election, but because Ohio families, women, and children will bear the brunt of this vote,” Protect Women Ohio, the leading group opposing Issue 1, said in a statement last night. And Republican lawmakers in the state said the battle is far from over. “This isn’t the end,” said Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman. “It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”

Tuesday’s results continued pro-choice groups’ victory from earlier this year when they led an effort to defeat a ballot initiative that sought to raise the required threshold for constitutional amendments from 50 percent to 60 percent of votes cast and increase signature requirements to get amendments on the ballot. The Republican-led initiative was a thinly veiled strategy to decrease the chances of an abortion amendment passing, making the measure a proxy battle over abortion rights. After an expensive campaign where millions of dollars in out-of-state funding flowed to both sides, voters rejected the measure in August, with 57 percent of votes cast against raising the threshold and only 43 percent in favor—the same breakdown as yesterday’s vote. (Ohio also passed another ballot initiative yesterday, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Across the country, there were more ballot measures than any off-year election since 2007.*)

In deeply red Kentucky, voters reelected the incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, rejecting the Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s first black attorney general. Donald Trump won the state in 2020 by more than 25 points, but Democrats have had success in statewide races in previous cycles—including when Beshear ousted the incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019. Beshear’s reelection campaign leaned on his efforts leading the state through both the pandemic and the aftermath of devastating natural disasters. Beshear’s approval rating sits at about 60 percent—and 43 percent among Republican voters—making him one of the most popular governors in the country. As such, polling throughout the campaign suggested he’d hold onto his post, but his lead tightened towards the end of the race. Cameron—a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—attempted to link Beshear to Biden, and Trump tried to drive that point home earlier this week. “If Beshear wins, you’ll have high crime, high taxes, and a Joe Biden stooge representing your state,” the former president said during a tele-rally on Monday.

Beshear argued his record stood for itself, and played up his image as a pragmatic problem solver. “This attorney general knows that if this race is about me versus him, that you know who I am and how I’ve led and how I’ve shown up every day,” Beshear said at a forum last month. Abortion played an outsized role in this election, as well: Beshear’s campaign aired a viral attack ad in September featuring a woman, Hadley Duvall, telling of how her stepfather raped her while she was a child. “This is to you, Daniel Cameron,” she said. “To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable.” Cameron had endorsed Kentucky’s current abortion law, which bans abortions without exceptions for rape or incest. (Cameron suggested in September he’d sign a law to add rape and incest exceptions, but later reiterated his support for the existing ban.)

Beshear thanked Duvall in his victory speech last night. “Because of her courage, this commonwealth is going to be a better place and people are going to reach out for the help they need,” he said. Since Republicans control the legislature, there’s little the governor can do to change the state’s ban, but he has pushed for adding exceptions to the law.

Yesterday’s results will likely encourage Democrats to lean into the abortion issue even further next fall, and, at least for now, such a strategy doesn’t bode well for the GOP—particularly in light of Youngkin’s failure in Virginia. The governor’s campaign represented the most intentional and well-resourced attempt by Republicans since Dobbs to run on abortion, not away from it. Meanwhile, pro-choice advocates in Florida, Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota, and several other states are working to get abortion initiatives on the ballot in 2024—which leaves Republicans just 363 days to come up with a winning blueprint.

At this point, pro-life leaders are well aware of the electoral challenges they’re facing. “Gotta change tactics, gotta change messengers, gotta change strategy, gotta change something,” Patrick Brown, a pro-life advocate and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said last night. “When abortion is on the ballot we’re getting creamed at the polls and it’s not even especially close.”

The message was later echoed by Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. “If we’re really going to be honest about this—and I consider myself pro-life, but I understand that’s not where the country is, I would say the first trimester, 15 weeks seems to be where the country is,” he said on Tuesday night. “And these issues will be decided by the states.”

Worth Your Time

  • Africa is poised to be home to one in four people on Earth by 2050—and could play a much larger role in global affairs as a result. In a comprehensive portrait of the youthful and growing continent, Declan Walsh, the New York Times chief Africa correspondent, explained what these demographic trends mean for Africa and the world—with the help of stunning photos by Hannah Reyes Morales. “Astonishing change is underway in Africa, where the population is projected to nearly double to 2.5 billion over the next quarter-century—an era that will not only transform many African countries, experts say, but also radically reshape their relationship with the rest of the world,” Walsh wrote. “Birthrates are tumbling in richer nations, creating anxiety about how to care for, and pay for, their aging societies. But Africa’s baby boom continues apace, fueling the youngest, fastest growing population on earth. The median age on the African continent is 19. In India, the world’s most populous country, it is 28. In China and the United States, it is 38. The implications of this ‘youthquake,’ as some call it, are immense yet uncertain, and likely to vary greatly across Africa, a continent of myriad cultures and some 54 countries that covers an area larger than China, Europe, India and the United States combined.”

Presented Without Comment

Times of Israel: Brandeis Bans Students for Justice in Palestine, Saying It “Openly Supports Hamas” 

Also Presented Without Comment

Politico: Boris Johnson Asked to Be Injected With Covid Virus on TV to Calm Public, Inquiry Hears 

Toeing the Company Line

  • Looking for answers on how the abortion debate shaped Election Night 2023? What should we make of Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s bipartisan censure? What is Mitch McConnell’s succession plan? Kevin was joined by Andrew and Mike to discuss all that and more on last night’s Dispatch Live (🔒). Members who missed the conversation can catch a rerun—either video or audio-only—by clicking here
  • In the newsletters: Nick explained (🔒) Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ high-risk, high-reward endorsement of Ron DeSantis. 
  • On the site: Jonathan Karl shares an excerpt from his new book (on which The Dispatch’s own Declan Garvey served as a researcher), Charlotte looks at whether Hezbollah will become more involved in the war against Israel, Kevin has thoughts about Lauren Boebert, and Jonah examines the antisemitism coming from China. 

Let Us Know

If you were advising a 2024 Republican candidate, how would you recommend he or she discuss the issue of abortion—if at all?

Correction, November 8, 2023: The measure Ohioans voted on yesterday vis-a-vis marijuana legalization was a ballot initiative, not a constitutional amendment.

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.