Reproductive choice replaces inflation as the voting problem
There was a veritable political earthquake last night with its epicenter in upstate New York’s 19th National Congressional District. And its shockwaves are being felt today in New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, where the battle of the Toms, Malinowski and Kean, Jr. continues to be the only major political indecisive competition in the Garden State.
The national decline in the fortunes of the Republican Party, as noted in my column yesterday, is accelerating at an ever faster pace, but last night’s special election upset Democrat Pat Ryan’s victory over Republican Marc Molinaro in the New York 19e The district’s congressional race confirmed the depth of Republican ancestry.
More importantly for New Jersey, Ryan’s winning campaign focused on the need to protect reproductive choice following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Molinaro’s losing campaign was all about inflation.
Accordingly, there was one conclusive and irrefutable truth that was key to Ryan’s victory:
Abortion choice replaces inflation as a voting issue.
There is a simple reason for this. Voters in New Jersey and New York understand that inflation is a temporary condition, while the loss of reproductive choice is permanent.
We are now witnessing the temporary nature of inflation. Gasoline prices, along with food prices, are the leading indicator of inflation and deflation. And gasoline prices have fallen for 70 days in a row, the second longest streak since 2005.
For Tom Kean, Jr., the emergence, after Ryan’s victory, of the preponderance of abortion as an electoral issue is a disaster. My May 3, 2022 column, “Roe v. Wade Reversal Dooms Kean, Jr. to Defeat” thoroughly analyzed the legal and political context of abortion choice in New Jersey. Tom Kean, Jr.’s New Jersey Senate vote against reproductive freedom of choice would leave New Jersey women without protection from judicial repeal, partial or complete, of their right to choose.
New Jersey women will never accept Kean, Jr.’s explanation that he felt the law’s protection of reproductive freedom went too far. All they know is that his vote against the law would leave their right to reproductive choice unprotected from judicial or executive interference by the state.
The issue of reproductive choice alone could vitiate Kean, Jr.’s attempts to win support from unaffiliated female voters. Without the support of independent women voters, Kean, Jr. will have no prayer of victory.
Spinmeisters hired as consultants by the New Jersey Republican State Committee over the next few weeks will attempt to bolster Kean, Jr.’s campaign with a sonic sophistry about how Ryan’s victory is no harbinger of New Jersey’s political impact of Roe v Wade’s Reversal. If you believe this dry nonsense, I have a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn that I can sell you.
We have now seen over the past four months a steady stream of nationwide columns and speeches from Republican media personalities asserting, as horn law and sacred writings, that abortion is not is not a voting issue likely to affect the midterm elections. In retrospect, these absurd missives had all the effectiveness of the 1957 Edsels.
By contrast, Malinowski’s consultants Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco have made reproductive freedom the centerpiece of his campaign since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was prematurely disclosed. Lawrence and DeMicco, in my opinion, are New Jersey’s most effective message and media consultants and among the top national elites. Their strategic mastery of message content and technology and their supernatural campaign foresight are a tribute to their unique political acumen.
Another impact: there is a dwindling number of House seats that Republicans can capture from Democrats. New Jersey 7th remains a prime target for the GOP. New Jersey will therefore be in the national political media spotlight for the next two months.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator for EPA Region 2 during the administration of former President George W. Bush and executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
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