RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision last month, Democrats in North Carolina have tried to highlight abortion access as a key issue in this year’s election as a few races could determine whether the state sees new restrictions.
David McLennan, who conducts polling at Meredith College, said even as the economy and inflation remain the top concerns for voters, there have been signs that abortion access is leading to increased enthusiasm among Democrats to turnout in November, including younger voters.
“Can it be sustained in terms of creating enthusiasm, and what needs to be done by the candidates to keep that interest high?” he asked.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) focused on that this week as he signed an executive order aimed at protecting abortion access in the state. He also pushed back on laws in Republican-led states, including blocking Cabinet agencies from cooperating with investigations into people seeking or providing services in North Carolina but illegal in other states.
As he signed the order, he called attention to several women standing with him who are running in some of the most competitive districts for the state General Assembly this year. Republicans are optimistic that the national political climate will help them as they seek to regain their supermajority and could easily override Cooper’s vetoes. They need to flip five of the legislature’s 170 seats to do that.
“If it matters anywhere, those are the exact races where it’s going to matter, those incredibly tight races, the very few competitive races that are spread throughout the state,” Chris Cooper said, an expert on state politics at Western Carolina University. “It’s cliché for a reason. Every vote really does matter in those races.”
Chris Cooper also said as prices remain high and uncertainty exists about a recession, the economy will remain the dominant top issue for voters.
“This is still a referendum on the fundamentals: that’s Joe Biden, that’s the economy and that’s inflation,” he said. “Joe Biden’s approval rating is going to matter. We know that historically with only one exception in recent memory, the president’s party loses seats in the midterm election. And, that’s what we expect to see happen here.”
A national Harvard University-Harris poll conducted recently found as voters ranked price increases and the economy as the top two issues, more voters have been citing women’s rights, guns and school safety as key issues as well in recent weeks.
Chris Cooper said in addition to the state legislative races, he also expects abortion will play an important role in the state’s Supreme Court races. Two of the court’s seven seats are on the ballot. Republicans need to win one of the two to take a majority on the court.
“The attention from voters and political observers should definitely be on the state Supreme Court and a very, very small number of state legislative seats,” he said. “The policy outcomes in one direction or the other are huge.”