There was never any doubt that an impending Supreme Court decision on abortion, expected over the summer, would have an outsize effect on the midterm campaigns this year. The issue just wasn’t expected to upend the races so soon.
But with this week’s leak of a draft opinion signaling that the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, candidates on both the right and left are seizing on the issue. Democrats, looking to hold on to their slim control of Congress, are hoping that abortion will galvanize their voters in an otherwise tough year for the party — one that has been characterized by low approval ratings for President Biden and frustrations over the economy and inflation.
Stacey Abrams, the Democrat vying to be Georgia’s next governor in what will be one of the nation’s most closely watched contests this fall, temporarily halted her campaign fund-raising in order to raise money for abortion-rights groups.
And Georgia’s current governor, Brian Kemp, is being pushed further to the right on the issue by his primary challenger, David Perdue, the Trump-backed former senator. Mr. Perdue on Thursday pressured Mr. Kemp to promise to call a special session of the legislature to ban abortion outright if the court eliminates federal protections for abortion rights.
In the high-spending Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, a new ad on Thursday from a super PAC that has supported David McCormick in the race warns that Dr. Mehmet Oz, the former host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mr. McCormick’s top rival, “will betray us” because he “isn’t fully pro-life.”
The issue may also raise the profile of a far less familiar Republican candidate in the Pennsylvania race: Kathy Barnette, a political commentator who has said the only exception should be when the mother’s life is at stake. The morning after the draft decision was published, Ms. Barnette wrote on Twitter that she was the “byproduct of rape” and attached a four-minute video, which has been viewed more than 350,000 times.
In North Carolina, where an open Senate seat has drawn crowded primaries on both sides of the aisle, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Cheri Beasley, is framing the Republicans in the race as extremists who oppose abortions “even in the case of incest, rape or the health of a mother being at risk.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, is not waiting for a winner to be chosen in the May 17 Republican primary to go on offense. On Thursday, Mr. Shapiro’s campaign released a TV ad against State Senator Doug Mastriano, a leading Republican contender, saying that “he wants to outlaw abortion.”
The leaked draft opinion has also raised the stakes in a critical Democratic rematch taking place in Texas, where the progressive lawyer Jessica Cisneros is in a May 24 runoff with Representative Henry Cuellar, who was the only congressional Democrat to vote against a U.S. House bill that would have nullified Texas’s near-total ban on abortion.
Minutes after the draft decision was published, she framed the race as a chance to protect those rights.
In Arizona, where several Republicans are vying for the chance to challenge Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, Mr. Kelly has framed the abortion issue as a generational fight for freedoms. “It’s wrong that my granddaughter might soon have fewer rights than my grandmother,” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
The candidates in the race’s Republican primary have jumped on the issue as well. Blake Masters, a venture capitalist, described abortion in graphic terms on Twitter, and said Mr. Kelly “wants to force your state to allow it.”
Mark Brnovich, another leading Republican in the Arizona Senate primary and the state’s attorney general, has made opposing abortion a key talking point. He said the Supreme Court should send Roe v. Wade “to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”