Washington, United States:
US President Joe Biden celebrated victory Wednesday after a series of votes centered on abortion rights — but the big question now is whether the issue can help the Democrat overcome likely opponent Donald Trump in 2024.
The wins for Democrats and abortion-rights campaigners in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia on Tuesday were a boost for 80-year-old Biden after dismal recent polling numbers showed him trailing hard-right Republican Trump, 77, in next year’s race.
Stung by critical media coverage and growing doubts in the Democratic Party about his candidacy, Biden himself pointed to the results as a key moment for his reelection campaign.
“Voters vote. Polls don’t. Now let’s go win next year,” Biden said Tuesday night on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Vice President Kamala Harris — whose own low approval ratings rival those of the commander in chief’s — said it was “a good night for democracy”.
“The president and I obviously have a lot of work to do to earn our reelection, but I’m confident we will win,” she told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
Biden’s re-election campaign posted a meme about how the media sleeps through Democratic wins but wakes feverishly the moment “random Democratic consultants” get nervous about his prospects.
The wins on Tuesday night undoubtedly showed that abortion rights can be a powerful motivator for Democratic voters nearly a year and a half after the Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v Wade ruling enshrining national abortion access.
In Ohio, voters backed putting abortion rights in the state’s constitution, rejecting Republican leadership on the issue in a state that Trump won in both his shock 2016 election win and 2020 defeat to Biden.
In Republican-leaning Kentucky, Democratic governor Andy Beshear won re-election after making abortion rights a major plank of his campaign. And in Virginia, Republican hopes for legislative wins that would allow them to tighten abortion restrictions were dashed.
Democrats had zeroed in on the issue and spent large sums on election ads, with spots in Virginia for example warning that Republicans on the ballot could help curb women’s abortion rights.
Conversely, while Trump often boasts about appointing three justices to the US Supreme Court who voted to ditch the federal right to an abortion, he is notably evasive about his own stance — a sign that he recognizes the political danger.
The off-year election results were all the more welcome for Democrats after recent polls.
A CNN survey on Tuesday showed Trump narrowly leading Biden 49 percent to 45 percent in a hypothetical rematch, while a CBS News/YouGov poll at the weekend made it 51-48 percent.
And Democratic handwringing reached a peak at the weekend when a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden trailing Trump in five key swing states, and leading in just one.
For all the poll worries, Biden overcame similar concerns in 2020 to unseat a seemingly Teflon-clad Trump. The Democrats also did unexpectedly well in midterm elections in 2022.
But a closer look shows Tuesday’s results were not all good news for Biden.
CNN said in an analysis that the “big night” for Democrats “only highlighted the struggles Joe Biden faces in 2024 following polls suggesting he’s far less popular than his party.”
The Kentucky governor barely mentioned Biden in his campaign and won largely on his own record and his opposition to abortion bans.
Despite the win in Ohio, only about 4 in 10 voters in the state approve of Biden’s job performance, and just a quarter said they think Biden should be running for president again, a CNN exit poll showed.
Americans appear to be concerned about two things in particular: Biden’s age, and the fact that inflation is still hurting their wallets despite the economy otherwise appearing to be in good shape.
Democrats hope that voters will come around to favor his economic record by November next year — and hear the White House’s warnings about Trump-inspired extremism on the right.
The highly emotional issue of abortion will likely be a central weapon in that strategy, including through plans by Democrats to put more votes on abortion rights on ballots in swing states alongside the presidential election.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)