Some righties are laughing about this on Twitter (Democrats against … personhood?), and granted, it’s a transparently desperate shiny-object attempt to change the subject from O-Care and the economy. But strategically it’s not half-bad, a decent play from a weak hand. They already owe not one but two of their swing-state Senate seats, in Missouri and Indiana, to Republican gaffes involving conception and rape. Go figure that they’d turn to conception again to try to minimize what looks like heavy losses in the Senate.
The issue isn’t being discussed at all by Washington prognosticators these days. But you can bet that some of the most hard fought Senate races this fall will feature big fights over “Personhood” measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization.
A number of GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form. Once primary season is over, and the Senate general elections get underway in earnest, you are likely to see Democrats attack Republicans over the issue — broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Dems have used to their advantage in the past.
This has already appeared in the Colorado Senate race, but it will likely become an issue in other races, too. In Colorado, the Republican candidate, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, renounced his previous support for Personhood after entering the contest, admitting it would “restrict contraception,” but Dems seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner only supports protecting women’s health when politically necessary…
Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, tells me Dems will likely use Personhood to appeal to persuadable GOP-leaning women — even as they push a women’s economic agenda designed to boost core turnout among female base voters.
Follow the link for more examples of Republicans who are up in November supporting “personhood” bills. The new strategy is, of course, all about women: Kristen Soltis Anderson notes today at the Daily Beast that one big difference for the GOP between 2010 and 2014 is that women voters seem to be sticking with Democrats this time. Four years ago, a Quinnipiac poll in March found almost no gender gap on the generic ballot; two weeks ago, they found men splitting 42/35 for Republicans and women splitting 44/34 for Democrats. At the very least, a “personhood” campaign might help preserve some of that advantage with women as we get closer to November. If they’re really lucky, some Republican candidate will pull an Akin and say something stupid that the party can demagogue in races across the country. The strategic virtue of a “personhood” campaign is that it implicates contraception, not just abortion, so it lends itself easily to a “Republicans are coming for The Pill” scare tactic. That’s worth a few votes.
None of this will stop the GOP from picking up seats but it might stop them from picking up enough to gain control of the Senate. And even if Republicans gain control, Democrats holding one or two extra seats that they otherwise would have lost if not for the “war on women” shtick will be hugely useful to them in 2016. Remember, the landscape that year is as favorable to Dems as the current one is to Republicans. Unless they get creamed six months from now and lose so many seats that the hole becomes too big for them to climb out of in one cycle, they’ll be heavy favorites to win a Senate majority two years from now. For the left, this year is all about minimizing losses and salvaging the seats they can. In which case, in the interest of triage, why not go after personhood bills? What else are they going to talk about? This?