White House officials are seizing the political opportunity in Democrats’ doomsday scenario, the end of nationwide abortion rights, to try to save President Joe Biden’s party in a midterm election thought to be all but lost.
According to one Biden adviser, an expected Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision next month will give Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris the opportunity to persuade abortion-rights supporters that voting is the best way to channel their frustration.
The White House believes the message will resonate with suburban women, minorities, and young voters, whose support could be critical to preserving Democrats’ House and Senate majorities, according to the adviser. The individual who requested anonymity was discussing internal strategy.
Harris, the highest-ranking woman in federal elected office, demonstrated this week in a fiery nine-minute speech how Democrats will sharpen their attacks on Republicans in the coming months.
In a speech to Emily’s List, a group that advocates for the election of female candidates who support abortion rights, she warned Republicans of a “direct assault on freedom” and Americans’ fundamental rights, positioning herself as the Democrats’ standard-bearer on the issue.
Top Biden advisers say they’ve seen an increase in engagement, anger, and enthusiasm from their base voters since the draft Roe decision was leaked. Polls have previously shown that Republicans are more eager to vote in November, following Biden and his party’s relentless attacks on inflation, immigration, crime, and the pandemic.
However, with new polls showing widespread support for abortion rights among women and young people, the draft ruling could “jolt key segments of the electorate out of complacency and malaise,” according to Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, whose current clients include vulnerable Arizona Senator Mark Kelly.
According to ActBlue, which processes online donations for Democratic-aligned candidates and groups, Democrats raised $12 million the day after news of the draft opinion broke.
So far, Harris appears to be more comfortable criticizing Republicans for their abortion stances than Biden.
When asked about Democrats’ next steps on the issue after delivering an economic speech, Biden paused, joking, “no one asked about deficits, huh?” before reiterating that the ruling “is about a lot more than abortion.” Biden, a devout Catholic, has previously expressed dissatisfaction with his party’s more progressive abortion policies. He had not used the word “abortion” publicly as president until this week.
Despite his criticism of the draft opinion, Biden has not called for the end of the Senate’s legislative filibuster so that Democrats can pass a law replacing Roe and guaranteeing abortion rights, as he has for voting rights legislation.
When asked about Biden’s refusal to use the word “abortion,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week that when Biden talks about a woman’s “right to choose,” he is referring to abortion, and “I think most people understand that.”
The White House also intends to hold events with advocates, health care providers, and state officials to raise awareness of the issue, according to the Biden adviser, who cautioned that the plans are not final.
“We are in conversations with a wide range of people, including women’s groups, pro-choice activists, business leaders, philanthropy, members of Congress, state legislatures, governors, advocacy groups, across the board,” Psaki told reporters traveling with the president on Friday.
Officials are also looking into ways to help women travel between states to get abortions if Roe is overturned, as more than a dozen Republican-led states are expected to outlaw the procedure immediately. However, such measures are unlikely to be announced in front of a court.
On Friday, Harris spokeswoman Kirsten Allen touted the Department of Health and Human Services’ new 24-hour maternal health hotline.
Democrats’ slim chances of retaining congressional majorities are dependent on a seismic shift in the political landscape, with the midterm elections shaping up as a referendum on Biden, particularly his handling of inflation.