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Win for pro-choice Democrats cools talk of US midterm Republican romp

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Aug 25, 2022 - 01:40 PM

NEW YORK — Democrats celebrated victory Wednesday in a US special election seen as the last bellwether of the public mood on abortion ahead of November’s midterms, as the party seeks to make reproductive rights a key issue in the campaign.

Iraq veteran Pat Ryan narrowly beat career politician Marc Molinaro in upstate New York’s 19th District late Tuesday, defying expectations that the seat would flip to the Republicans.

Pundits have focused on the Hudson Valley swing district — won at least once by each of the last three presidents — as a trial run of the parties’ general election messages.

Democrats said the key to victory was anger over the Supreme Court’s hugely contentious decision — known as “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” — ending the federally-protected right to abortion.

Ryan hammered his pro-abortion rights message during the campaign, declaring loudly and often that “choice is on the ballot,” while Molinaro focused on inflation and crime.

The 40-year-old victor said he had run because “the foundations of our democracy were and remain under direct threat,” according to his local paper, the Times Union.

“When the Supreme Court ripped away reproductive rights, access to abortion rights, we said: ‘This is not what America stands for.'”

Ryan hadn’t led in any poll and even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had his opponent eight points ahead in a survey released just ahead of the vote.

Democrats ‘more engaged’ 

Yet, as with the other three special House elections held since the June 24 high court ruling, the Democratic candidate bettered President Joe Biden’s 2020 performance.

Biden carried the district by fewer than two points in 2020, after Donald Trump took it by about seven points in 2016 and Barack Obama won there by a similar amount in 2012.

Democrats are now arguing that the race provides the most encouraging sign yet that November’s midterm election might not be the bloodbath many have been anticipating.

“Lots of focus on Dems being more engaged/energetic post-Dobbs, which is undeniably true,” election analyst Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report tweeted.

“But to me, the GOP/Trump base appears less engaged than it was last November, which is just as big a part of the story.”

US voters will decide control of Congress in the midterm elections, with all 435 House seats up for grabs, as well as 35 of the 100 Senate seats and the governor’s mansion in 36 out of 50 states.

Democratic strategists say enthusiasm and energy among liberals has shot up since Dobbs, pointing to research from political data firm Target Smart showing women outpacing men in new voter registrations in numerous states.

The data shows four Democrats registering for every Republican in the key battleground of Pennsylvania.

“This isn’t just a blue state phenomena. In fact, it is more pronounced in states where choice is more at risk, or has been eliminated by the decision,” TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier tweeted last week.

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