Not yet 24 hours after the publication of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn constitutional protections of abortion rights, Democrats at every level across the country were capitalizing on a potentially seismic shift in the political landscape that could upend what was to have been a bloodbath of a midterm election for an otherwise disillusioned party.
Attacks on Republican candidates are underway, as are a flurry of pleas for donations. Ads defending abortion rights are rapidly populating social media. The Democratic National Committee launched a text messaging campaign to move people to the streets, while some of the most powerful Democratic groups in the country were huddling to reshape their messaging.
“This decision and this leak — hell, that just re-stoked the fire in our bellies,” said Felesia Martin, the vice chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “You know what I say? ‘God bless you and thank you.’ We’re going to take this and let it motivate us and re-energize us to do the work.”
After Politico published the draft opinion Monday night, Martin said, rank-and-file Democrats were calling with offers to knock on doors, help organize rallies or lobby state legislators. In Madison, Wisconsin, a massive rally was expected at the Capitol early Tuesday evening.
That was just one of the rallies planned around the country Tuesday in a coordinated push by the DNC, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood and other national groups to move activists to courthouses, governor’s mansions and town squares to protest the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade.
JB Poersch, the president of the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, said his group will use radio, TV and digital ads, as well as door-to-door canvassing and field activity, to remind voters about what’s at stake: the prospect that a Republican-led Senate would prevent President Joe Biden from filling Supreme Court vacancies and pursue a nationwide abortion ban.
“We’re going to make sure people understand this threat,” he said.
It was already clear Tuesday that battleground-state Democrats got the message.
In Nevada, an activist group was reaching out to Latinos to explain the draft decision and emphasize the renewed significance of the midterm elections. Abortion is legal in Nevada, and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who is up for re-election, moved to boost funding of health care centers. But a Republican governor or a GOP-led Legislature could slash those dollars or push for other barriers, like parental consent, they argued.
“This is the wake-up call,” said Cecia Alvarado, the Nevada executive director of Somos Votantes, an activist group that aims to engage Latinos. “We have been so busy holding political debates that [Republicans] have taken advantage … of everyone talking about gas prices when they’re trying to dismantle our right to access a safe abortion.”
In Michigan, Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said that she has been bombarded with calls and emails and that online donations have ramped up since the news of the Supreme Court’s pending decision.
“This has lit a fire under people,” Barnes said. “What it does is bring what was abstract into sharp relief. It makes it real for folks.”
The probability that a conservative Supreme Court could overturn the 49-year-old law offers Democrats a clear and powerful message when the party suffers from bleak poll numbers, an unpopular president and a deficiency in effective messaging, Democratic strategists say. The message now: Republicans will overreach if they’re not stopped.
“It’s a giant leap backwards we’ve taken, and now everything is on the table,” said Pete Giangreco, a national Democratic strategist who worked on Barack Obama’s campaigns. “Whatever the radical right wants, this court will give them.”
A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last week found 2-to-1 national support for upholding Roe v. Wade. It said 54 percent of U.S. adults want to preserve the ruling, while 28 percent want to overturn it; 18 percent expressed no opinion. Surveys in recent years have found particularly high support for protecting Roe v. Wade among independent, suburban and college-educated women.