The results reveal a changed Republican coalition, weakened pro-life movement, and the possible reemergence of a middle ground in American politics.
Voters decided a number of statewide elections and ballot questions on Oct. 7 that gave clues to shifts taking place in American politics.
Gubernatorial races in Kentucky and Mississippi, statehouse contests in Virginia, and ballot measures in Ohio reveal a changing Republican party, the problem with influencing out-of-state races, and the possible emergence of a middle ground in America’s increasingly polarized political landscape.
First, the rapid disappearance of a once-reliable wedge issue for Republicans: abortion.
GOP Abortion Problem
Prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, there was perhaps no more dependable issue for Republicans than abortion. Many Republicans were single-issue voters on the issue. And given what seemed like a stable constitutional right to abortion, GOP voters who may have harbored doubts about banning the procedure altogether had no reason or occasion to voice them.
That changed in 2022 when the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision put the matter back in the people’s hands. The ambivalence of many GOP voters became immediately apparent as six state referendums addressing the issue were put to voters that year, including three proposed constitutional amendments to establish a right to the procedure.
Pro-life advocates lost all six, including in red states such as Kentucky and Kansas.
On Oct. 7 the reliably red state of Ohio affirmed adding a right to abortion to the state’s constitution. At the same time, voters in Virginia handed both houses of the state’s legislature to the Democrats, who had used one of the GOP’s favorite wedge issues against it.
Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), the official party committee for state legislatures, said in a statement on election night: “This new era of leadership in Virginia will ensure that abortion remains legal and that Republican’s MAGA agenda is stopped in its tracks. When state-level Democrats run and have the support they need to win, we put ourselves on the path to progress.”