The Biden-Harris campaign is rolling out a multi-pronged abortion initiative as a centerpiece in its effort to re-elect the incumbent president. Television commercials, a task force, and sending Vice President Kamala Harris on a “reproductive freedoms tour” were rolled out with fanfare yesterday (Jan. 22). The Biden ticket erroneously labeled the day as the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, using it to kick off what the Democrats strongly believe is a winning issue for them in the upcoming presidential contest.
But is it?
It is true that when the landmark US Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was first leaked and then announced, there was a sizable backlash. However, public sentiment has calmed down as individual states address the issue. The Dems once held a double-digit favorability on the subject, which appears to be fading. On June 29, 2023, a Rasmussen poll found that 52% of likely voters approved of the decision to overturn Roe. Just a week ago, a survey by the same pollster found that “voters still trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the issue of abortion,” but only by a margin of 4%.
Biden Campaign Hitches Its Star to Abortion Rights
The Biden campaign has focused on two areas regarding the abortion issue: contraception or abortion medication and affordability. In making abortion rights a main feature of its re-election message, termed as a “policy blitz” by Politico, it is banking on these strategies to rile up the pro-abortion lobby and get out the vote.
This blitz appears to have taken a very personal approach, which can be effective. A new Biden campaign ad features a female OB-GYN in Texas who was pregnant with a child that had a fatal condition “with no chance of survival.” She goes on to say that in Texas, “You would be forced to carry that pregnancy, and that is because of Donald Trump.” She ends her distressing story with a call to action: “We need leaders that will protect our rights and not take them away. And that’s Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
That, my friends, is what is known as an attack ad. These messages are always negative in tone and tend to stoke fear or anxiety in the viewer. Political analysts have long held the opinion that negative political advertisements backfire, resulting in adverse outcomes for the candidate who produces them. These days, however, analysts are all over the place in determining the effectiveness of an attack ad. At the core level, a destructive video spot says, “Vote for me because you must vote against my opponent.” Without a doubt, the Biden-Harris strategists have decided that pinning the abortion issue on the tail of the Donald and the Republicans is a winning strategy.
But this is only part of its overall plan that took a page out of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s handbook. The central issue the Dems are taking to the people is that a Biden-Harris ticket offers more freedom than Trump and the GOP. The signature ad on its campaign website not only pushes reproductive “freedom” but sets up Republicans as those who ban books and tell “people who they can love.”
Such as it is – even as president – there is little Biden can do about abortion. He can set up task forces and send his VP to swing states to hype abortion medicines and contraceptives, but the Supreme Court has kicked the issue back to the states where it will stay. Voters intuitively know this, even if they are against it. Thus, one must wonder how effective this focus on something that is unlikely to change is and whether it will bring out enough Democrat constituents to carry Biden-Harris to victory.