Experts: Abortion Rights Controversy Changes Midterms Landscape

Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer

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Punchbowl News cofounders Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer discuss the nuances of the upcoming midterm elections during the General Session at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings.

Republicans appeared poised to unleash a red wave in this year’s midterm elections—until late Monday night when news broke of a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn abortion rights in America. Now, with this issue sure to galvanize Democratic voters in November, it’s anyone’s guess what the results of the elections will look like, Capitol Hill reporters said Tuesday during the General Session at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C.

Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, cofounders of the online political newsletter Punchbowl News, said that even though the upcoming election cycle still favors Republicans, the perilous outlook for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision could limit their success. “It’s fair to say this is the most impactful domestic political event of the last several decades,” Sherman said. “Democratic organizations are going to get flooded with contributions, and it remains to be seen how that will impact Democratic candidates in the midterms.”

The draft opinion—spawned from a case challenging a Mississippi law that limits abortion rights in the state—does not reflect a final decision, and justices can still change their minds before the formal ruling is handed down in June.

“This becomes an animated issue for the foreseeable future,” Palmer said, adding that it could drive momentum for filibuster reform in Congress.

It’s sure to further exacerbate the divide between Republicans and Democrats, whose relationships with each other have “never been this bad,” Sherman said. “If you think about the last 15 years on Capitol Hill, we’ve had two members of Congress shot, a pandemic, a violent assault on the Capitol—now there are metal detectors outside the House floor. We are in an extremely charged political time, and there is no simple fix.”

Add to that the Jan. 6 Committee, which is investigating the 2021 Capitol riot and will hold public hearings on its findings next month. However, Sherman said he doesn’t expect the committee’s forthcoming report to have much of an impact on the midterms because “people have already decided what they think of it.”

Ultimately, Palmer and Sherman said, they believe the issue of escalating inflation will help Republicans win a House majority in November. The Senate, they said, is more uncertain. Sherman also said he believes former President Donald Trump—who has $150 million in fundraising on hand—will run again in 2024, which would give current President Joe Biden more impetus to run for re-election. But if Trump decides not to run, then Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis becomes the number one candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, he added. Both Palmer and Sherman predicted that former Vice President Mike Pence will not throw his hat into the race.