(Bloomberg) -- A string of wins for Democrats in elections around the US Tuesday highlighted the party’s appeal to voters, especially on abortion issues, and may be good news for President Joe Biden’s reelection hopes despite recent weak poll numbers.
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Democrats won majorities in both chambers in Virginia - where the Republican governor had been pushing for tighter abortion restrictions and hoped to gain control both the House and Senate. In Ohio, a state that Donald Trump won in 2020, a referendum guaranteeing women the right to terminate pregnancies won, underlining the continuing power of the issue to mobilize Democratic voters more than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The White House was quick to tout the results as confirming a pathway for Biden to prevail in next year’s presidential election.
“It was a good night,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters. “If you look at it from the midterms to last night, from California to Kansas, Ohio to Virginia, the voters said, look, ‘the government should not be telling a woman what to do with her body.’”
Several recent polls have shown Biden lagging behind Trump, the likely Republican nominee, both nationally and in the key swing states that are likely to determine the outcome of the vote. The White House has struggled to get traction with its economic message and overcome voter doubts about whether the 80-year-old incumbent is too old to run again.
Biden, with a 38.5% approval rating, is far less popular with voters than some of the issues on the ballot on Tuesday, including Ohio measures to enshrine abortion access and legalize recreational marijuana, both of which have support levels above 80% among Americans, according to Gallup.
“State indicators a year out are not always great predictors, but as politics has become much more nationalized the difference between states and national results has diminished,” said David Bateman of Cornell University. “It looks like Trump and his effect on the party have hurt the GOP among key constituencies. But when Trump is on the ballot, he has also been able to mobilize other constituencies to compensate for that.”
Republicans found little to be proud of.
“It’s depressing. I mean, it’s not a good night for pro-life conservatives,” said Ohio Senator JD Vance. “It suggests we really need to rethink how we message this, how we sell our views to the American people, because right now, the American people aren’t buying and we have to be honest with ourselves about that fact.”
Some in the party suggested the results sound alarms for hopes taking back the White House and Senate and hanging on to their thin House majority in 2024 with Trump as its standard-bearer.
“Last night’s disappointing results show why Republicans need a winner to lead the future of the party, and Ron DeSantis is the man for the moment,” DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo said in a memo. DeSantis and Trump’s other Republican rivals gather for another debate later Wednesday.
Off-year elections can be imperfect predictors of presidential races, especially since most of Tuesday’s elections were for county and municipal races far removed from national politics. But the most significant signals were positive for Democrats.
Republicans saw a few bright spots came in New York, where GOP candidates swept county executive races on Long Island and even won a New York City Council race in the Bronx for the first time in 20 years — showing continuing concerns about crime there.
(Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-safety advocacy group founded and supported by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, spent more than $1.5 million in the Virginia legislative campaign.)
--With assistance from Maeve Sheehey, Erik Wasson, Jennifer Jacobs and Mackenzie Hawkins.
(Updates with more reaction from fourth paragraph. (An earlier version of this story was corrected to reflect the proper spelling of Biden campaign spokesman’s name.)
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