The politics of abortion

It is likely the abortion issue will have a large impact on control of the House in 2024 and little or no impact of control of the Senate or the presidential race. Donors who want to impact 2024 political outcomes should focus on House races.

The House of Representatives is now ground zero of the abortion debate in the United States.  

Nearly a dozen bills in the House include anti-abortion provisions.  These include bills that:

restrict access to mifepristone, ban paid leave for travel for abortion related services by members of the military and their families, and limit funds to the District of Columbia because of its abortion laws.

Many attempts to restrict abortion involve riders to must-pass appropriation bills. The Senate and President Biden tend to give in to extreme House positions to enact must-pass laws.  A case in point is the decision to schedule the next debt limit vote for early January 2026, when it can be used as pressure in the presidential certification decision.

Pro-choice Democrats running for seats in the House can legitimately make the claim that Democrat control of the House is needed to prevent the implementation of highly regressive policies and political dysfunction.  

There are currently 18 House seats controlled by Republicans in districts won by President Biden and only 5 House seats controlled by Democrats in districts run by former president Trump. There are more than enough House districts that could swing the House back to Democratic control largely because of the abortion issue.   

Prior to Dobbs, abortion was a fringe political issue. Both sides used the specter of overturning Roe to motivate their base during presidential elections. Outcomes of presidential elections and senate contests were determined by the makeup of the states with red states going republican, blue states going to the Democrat and a relatively few purple states swinging depending on the election.  

The Dobbs decision did not change the dynamics governing outcomes of Presidential and Senate election.

The primary determinant of the outcome of the presidential contest in 2024 is candidate quality.  The Republicans have a much better chance of winning the election if they nominate someone not named Trump.  The Republicans could win if Biden has a major health event nearing the election or just makes a ton of mistakes or otherwise appears feeble on the campaign trail. 

The presidential race is also impacted by unanticipated events on the current president’s watch, including renewed inflation, the onset of a recession, some terror event (perhaps one emanating from Afghanistan) or failure in Ukraine due to insufficient American support.  These scenarios could overshadow the abortion issue.  

Abortion is not likely to be a major factor in Senate outcomes, even though the Senate is responsible for confirming judges.

There is a substantial likelihood the Senate will turn from blue to red in 2024.

Only four 2024 contests — Arizona, West Virginia, Ohio, and Montana — are likely to be closely contested. All have vulnerable incumbent Democrats or Independents. 

Arizona is impossible to predict because there may be three viable candidates and even two-way races in Arizona are very close.

The outcome in West Virginia depends on whether the incumbent Democrat runs for reelection.  If Manchin does not run, the republicans will pick up a seat in this state.

Ohio and Montana are red states with popular Senate Democrats.   Montana is more likely to flip than Ohio.

The Democratic establishment will attempt to persuade potential donors to contribute to Senate races in Florida and Texas.  The likelihood of a Democrat prevailing in either state is extremely small.

Democrats have not won a statewide contest in Texas since the 1990s.

Florida now has a Republican governor and two Republican Senators.

Republicans are now winning statewide races in Florida by large margins.

Both Texas and Florida have enacted draconian anti-abortion laws.  Abortion will be a key issue in elections in both states but will more likely be the determining factor in House contests than in statewide contests. 

The die is largely cast for the Senate because of the unfavorable 2024 map for Democrats.  

A contribution to a House race in Texas or Florida will have a larger positive impact on all races in the state than a contribution to the Senate candidate.

The outcome for the presidential race depends largely on the choice of the nominee, the mental and physical health of the nominees, and unanticipated events. None of these factors are under your control or would be impacted by an incremental contribution.

Progressive and centrist Democrats might best impact 2024 outcomes by searching for and donating to high-quality pro-choice House candidates.

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