As David Harsanyi noted on the Corner earlier today, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in Virginia yesterday suggests that abortion is a winning issue for conservatives — and his victory should encourage conservative candidates to treat it like one.
On Morning Joe this morning, former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill put it well: “McAuliffe thought all he had to do was talk about abortion and women would fall in line.”
It’s true enough. In the last month of the campaign, as Youngkin pivoted hard to education, McAuliffe doubled down on his pro-abortion rhetoric, stoking fear over the Texas Heartbeat Act and Roe v. Wade and repeatedly insisting that Youngkin would “turn Virginia into Texas” and take away women’s rights.
McAuliffe had at least five television ads highlighting his commitment to a “woman’s right to choose” and hitting Youngkin for his alleged extremism on abortion. He even campaigned at an abortion clinic earlier this fall.
It doesn’t seem to have helped much, and in fact, it likely hurt him.
As David noted, CNN exit polling found that Youngkin had a significant advantage over McAuliffe among voters with softer positions on abortion. Unsurprisingly, voters who said abortion should be legal in all cases hugely favored McAuliffe, and voters who said it should be illegal in all cases hugely favored Youngkin.
But among voters in the middle two categories — legal in most cases and illegal in most cases — Youngkin had a clear edge. Voters who said abortion should be legal in most cases broke for McAuliffe just two to one, while voters who said it should be illegal in most cases broke heavily for Youngkin, 88 percent to McAuliffe’s 12.
Meanwhile, according to Fox News exit polling, among the 5 percent of Virginia voters who said abortion was their top issue, Youngkin had a twelve-point advantage — consistent with public-opinion surveys that typically find the pro-life position has an edge in voter enthusiasm.
Given how out of step he is with voters on this issue and what we can glean from exit polling, McAuliffe would’ve been better served to focus on responding to Virginia voters’ concerns about inflation and education rather than harping on about abortion.
It’s true that, in a post-Roe world, the pro-life goal of eliminating or limiting abortion would be out of step with some number of voters, but that shouldn’t stop conservative candidates from using the issue to hammer Democrats for their unpopular positions.
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