Bad vibes: Whitmer leads by double digits in Michigan as abortion battle flares

Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

It’s just one poll, and the last poll of the state before this one was more encouraging. Tony Fabrizio found Republican Tudor Dixon trailing Gretchen Whitmer by just five points, within striking distance.


The catch is that Fabrizio’s poll put Whitmer at 51 percent. To win, Dixon will need to do more than convince undecideds. She’ll have to flip voters who already prefer the incumbent, a much heavier lift.

The Fabrizio survey was conducted two weeks ago. Today’s poll from EPIC/MRA is more recent and has Whitmer out to a big lead. Maybe that’s an artifact of the two pollsters using different samples, or maybe the EPIC poll is just an outlier. But it’s destined to send a chill down the spines of Republicans who were spooked by Democrat Pat Ryan’s surprise win in the NY-19 special election this week. Ryan ran hard on abortion and it paid off. Whitmer is also running hard on abortion…


…and it seems to be paying off:

Look again at those numbers. She’s running 20 points ahead of Joe Biden. Holy decoupling, Batman.

Michigan is on the front line of the abortion wars this year thanks to a 1931 law that banned the practice in the state. The status of that law post-Dobbs is now a hot legal dispute locally; less than a week ago, a Michigan judge issued a preliminary injunction barring it from taking effect. Having abortion front and center in voters’ minds is music to Whitmer’s ears, as Michiganders split 58/33 in the new EPIC poll when asked if they describe themselves as pro-choice or pro-life. “Pro-life” is described in the poll as opposing abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother — i.e. no exceptions for rape or incest, which many pro-lifers *do* support.

But as chance would have it, Tudor Dixon opposes exceptions for rape or incest. She’s a hardliner, which is a principled moral position but major baggage potentially in a 50/50 state where voters lopsidedly support legal abortion at some stage of pregnancy. More from EPIC:

Abortion is the most important issue to address, Michigan residents said in the first survey of likely voters since the race for governor entered the general election phase of the race. That’s good news for Democrats running on the issue because the survey found 67% of likely voters would support a proposal that would legalize the medical procedure.

Just 24% said they would vote against the proposal.


Asked which issue they’re most concerned about, 19 percent of Michigan voters said abortion. No other issue finished higher than 15 percent. I wonder how long it’ll be before Dixon cuts one of those “actually, I’m moderate-ish on life” ads that some of her GOP colleagues have been posting this week.

We probably shouldn’t read too much into the gender gap in the EPIC poll, as women tend to favor Democrats for numerous reasons and haven’t traditionally skewed much more sharply pro-choice than men. But for what it’s worth:

Younger voters of childrearing age also skew more sharply towards Whitmer than older voters do. That’s also not surprising — young adults typically favor Democrats, older ones typically favor Republicans — yet still interesting in the context of the big abortion fight. In fact, women 50 or over prefer Whitmer to Dixon solidly at 52/40. But women between the ages of 18 and 49 prefer her overwhelmingly, 63/28.

In a supposed Republican wave year, in a state Biden won by less than three points, at a moment of historic inflation, I wouldn’t have expected Whitmer to be running up the score against Dixon to the extent that she is here. Now I’m wondering how many centrist Republicans are thinking of crossing over to vote for her this fall on abortion grounds who were otherwise prepared pre-Dobbs to vote Republican this fall. There was meaningful crossover voting in support of the pro-choice position in Kansas’s abortion referendum earlier this month, remember. Matt Lewis is speculating today that the issue could potentially threaten the GOP’s post-Trump coalition:


Leave it to the thrice-married Trump to leave us for a younger coalition. But this new relationship was probably inevitable. As America becomes more secular and our culture becomes more coarse (see Twitter and reality TV), it has been mathematically necessary to incorporate this amoral majority into the family.

The problem is that Dobbs—which is a sop to the old Reagan and Bush-era conservative base—is problematic for the new batch of right-wingers that Trump (the vulgarian that he is) brought into the fold.

Consider the reaction of Barstool Sports bro Dave Portnoy, who would presumably like to continue trolling the woke left—and railing against COVID-19 lockdowns—while also enjoying consequence-free casual sex. “We are literally going backwards in time! It makes no sense how anybody thinks it’s their right to tell a woman what to do with her body,” one of the MAGA right’s new heroes said in a profane rant.

Even liberal doomsayer Ruy Teixeira, who’s spent the past year warning his party that they were headed off a cliff by neglecting working-class voters’ cultural concerns, suddenly sounds optimistic. “In 2022, it appears that white college graduate voters are reporting for duty once again,” he writes. “These voters are less sensitive to economic problems and more likely to be moved by a social issue like abortion rights, which looms large in their world view. In short, they are the perfect voters for Democrats in the current environment.”

Biden just offered those voters a trillion-dollar bribe, to boot. They’re probably going to show up for him this fall. The question is whether a working-class backlash to that bribe coupled with exasperation over inflation is enough to wash them away in a giant red wave anyway. Judging from the new Michigan poll, maybe not.


I’ll leave you with this new ad from Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who represents a 50/50 district in Virginia and looked to be a goner this fall as of six months ago. Suddenly she’s back in the game. Care to guess what the ad is about?

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