Biden acknowledged that his plans are contingent on Democrats holding the House and increasing their majority in the Senate. As such, his new vow appears aimed squarely at energizing Democrats to turn out in force in the upcoming midterm elections where the party is struggling to keep its slim majorities, as polls show early outrage over the fall of Roe v. Wade this June has been outstripped by economic concerns.
“You got to get out the vote,” Biden added to applause. “We can do this if we vote.”
Biden has increasingly escalated his attacks on Republicans over abortion rights since the high court’s ruling this summer overturning Roe. He’s predicted that there will be a massive surge of voter activity in the midterms pushing back against the decision — particularly from women voters. Biden also has argued that abortion will be just the start of GOP attempts to dial back rights, warning that protections for contraception and same-sex marriage could be next.
More than a dozen states have passed near-total bans on abortion — though some have been blocked by courts — and more are aiming to soon do so when their legislatures reconvene in January. In Tuesday’s speech, Biden warned that Republicans want a national ban that would criminalize doctors for performing abortions.
“Congressional Republicans are doubling down on their extreme positions,” Biden said on Tuesday. “Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House, has said that if they take control of the House, our work is ‘far from done.’ He wants the United States Congress to pass a law that would ban abortion nationwide.”
While backlash to the abortion ruling has led to big Democratic wins in special elections and a burst of women registering to vote, Democrats fear they may be losing momentum with midterm voters and that they’ll be unable to counter the headwinds caused by high inflation.
In response to president’s speech, anti-abortion groups urged GOP candidates, many of whom have stayed quiet on the issue in recent months amid the political fallout from the Supreme Court ruling, to “keep going on offense.”
“It is time for Americans to hold pro-abortion politicians accountable,” said Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, listed the top Democratic gubernatorial and Senate candidates her group plans to target by linking them to Biden’s remarks; among them, Stacey Abrams, Raphael Warnock, Mark Kelly, Katie Hobbs, Catherine Cortez Masto, and John Fetterman.
“The stakes of the midterm elections could not be higher,” she said. “President Biden is making clear today have that if Democrats control Congress in 2023, they will destroy the filibuster and pass their Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act.”
Biden’s remarks at the Howard Theatre underscored the tight rope he has been walking during the midterm cycle. He has used the bully pulpit to try and drive the campaign narrative, but done so mostly while avoiding hitting the stump for candidates in tight races.
He recently returned to D.C. from a swing out West, where he campaigned for Democrats in deep blue Los Angeles and Oregon, but stayed out of battleground contests in Arizona and Nevada. His upcoming campaign trips are on behalf of Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and Charlie Crist, who has an uphill challenge to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On Tuesday, he did seek on occasion to broaden the argument for the midterms beyond abortion, noting that his administration is forgiving student debt and keeping its promise that no one should be in jail merely for using or possessing marijuana.
“You need to exercise your power to vote again for the future of our nation and the future of your generation,” he said in closing. I’m asking the American people to remember how you felt, how you felt that day the extreme Dobbs decision came down.”