Michigan Democrats are actively searching for voters who might broadly identify as "pro-life" but simply do not back the idea of banning abortions altogether. It's a classic wedge issue, aligning with views often held by white working-class women without a college education.
In the state’s 2020 presidential contest, white women without college degrees voted Republican by a 15-point margin, 57%-42%. But Democratic state Senate candidate Veronica Klinefelt views the group as a hidden resource for Democrats this fall.
“I think that silent group of people is going to have an effect on this election,” Klinefelt told Politico’s Elena Schneider as she knocked doors in Macomb County, part of northern metro Detroit in the southeastern region of the state.
“I’ve always been pro-life,” one woman explained to Klinefelt at a door. But in “realizing how many [abortions] are medically necessary, but then there’s no exceptions? That’s big for me.”
The woman, who declined to give her name, said she would be voting for Whitmer and identified abortion as playing a major role in her decision.
Independent pollster Richard Czuba, who’s done statewide surveys, said his data shows that when abortion is dominating the discussion, "non-college women move away from the Republican coalition." Czuba called the dynamic "a huge loss" for Republicans.
Several GOP consultants admitted to Politico the issue had cracked a door for Democrats that might not otherwise be there.
“Dobbs has thrown a monkey wrench into what should be a great year for us here — and the ‘no exceptions’ thing is the killer," said one Michigan GOP consultant.
But the issue is also more prominent in a state like Michigan, where it is literally on the ballot and both gubernatorial candidates hold diametrically opposing views. Nationally, GOP consultants are eager to point out that inflation and the economy continue to top the list of voters' concerns.
Still, GOP pollster Neil Newhouse admitted that the Dobbs ruling overturning abortion rights had given Democrats "a foothold, which they wouldn’t have otherwise." Even so, Newhouse predicted Democrats would lose the House because abortion would be overshadowed by the economy.
Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow viewed it differently: Abortion is indeed a kitchen table issue, explained the Democrat.
“Here’s what pollsters are missing — and it’s not a surprise that a lot of them are men: For women, this is the most expensive decision they’ll make in their lifetime. If you’re a woman, you’re buying groceries, that’s another mouth to feed, it’s more gas to pay for another trip to a school,” McMorrow said. “If you’re talking to women, yes, inflation is the top concern, but they’re also thinking about that in the context of access to an abortion.”
Whether one views abortion rights as a social or economic concern, it has rattled Republicans in Michigan.
“Every time Tudor is frustrated that all Whitmer talks about is abortion — well, yeah, you’re getting your head handed to you on this issue and they have no response,” said Czuba.
Dixon also hasn't aired a single TV ad in the state since she won the August primary, according to Politico. But during the closing month of the campaign, the Republican Governors’ Association plans to swoop in with $4 million in ad reservations.
They've got some ground to make up given that Whitmer currently holds an 11-point lead in the race.
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