Democrats across the nation have latched on to abortion as a key midterm issue, but Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz disagrees — and he’s not alone.
“The average voter wants and desires some type of bipartisan solution because they know the middle is where the truth often lies,” Oz told Fox News Digital in an interview last week.
Oz has faced attacks from Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman, claiming that he wants to ban all abortion, and painting the Republican nominee as being extreme, but Oz believes his three exceptions — in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is threatened — are “acceptable to most of the people that I’m speaking to on the campaign trail.”
Abortion became a critical midterm issue for Democrats following the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, which sent the issue of abortion bans and restrictions to state legislatures, and Democrats say the issue will help them fend off Republicans hoping to take control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms.
At a rally Sunday with Planned Parenthood, Fetterman suggested that abortion could be the issue that could win him the Senate seat. “Women are the reason we can win,” Fetterman said. “Don’t piss women off,” he added.
Oz and many Republican commentators believe abortion is not at the top of mind to most voters, and insist that to the majority of the electorate, the GOP position is more moderate than what Fetterman and other Democrats are pushing for.
“My opponent John Fetterman believes that you can have an abortion at full term at 38 weeks, and that does not seem like the middle of the road to most Pennsylvania voters. In fact, that seems quite radical, which is why he won’t be emphasizing that I don’t believe in this general election, but it’s still true because he said it in his debate when he was campaigning to be the Democratic nominee,” Oz told Fox News.
Democrats are campaigning on the idea that following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June, “reproductive rights” are in jeopardy if Republicans take control. Liberal pollster Celinda Lake told Fox News Digital that abortion access is a motivating factor for voters, particularly for women, and for Pennsylvania especially, since Oz is a doctor. Holding pro-life views as a physician, she says, is surprising.
“It’s a deal breaker for suburban women who are quite surprised that a medical doctor would go so far. And it energizes younger voters,” Lake said.
The idea that abortion could be an election-shaping issue in the midterms has support in looking at several elections and ballot issues that voters have weighed in on since June. Kansas voters resoundingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state legislature to pass greater restrictions on abortion. And Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election for a congressional seat in New York in tight race after making abortion a central focus of his campaign.
Recent Pennsylvania polling indicates only a slight increase in support for legal abortion without restrictions. A Franklin and Marshall survey of Pennsylvania voters found in August that support for legal abortion in “any circumstance” increased after the Dobbs ruling, from 35% in May to 37% in August. But support for legal abortion “under certain circumstances” was at 52% in August, a decline from 54% in May, according to the poll. The same poll showed 46% of respondents said Fetterman was closer to their opinion on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, compared to 32% who said Oz was more aligned with their view.
However, the tide for midterm elections is historically against the party in power, and voter registration prior to the Dobbs decision points in favor of Republicans dominating in the midterms, according to Peter Towey of GOP digital agency Targeted Victory.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to try and highlight something that’s happened over the past couple months and disregard everything that’s happened in the last nine months,” Towey told Fox News Digital.
Looking at voter registration data, Towey argues that well before the Dobbs decision, Pennsylvanians saw more Republicans registering to vote, while Democrats lost registrations. And looking at the overall registration data, Democrats have lost some edge. In 2020, Democrats had 685,818 more registered voters than Republicans. By Sept. 6, 2022, that lead had dropped to 540,571 according to the Department of State.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that more women have registered to vote since the June Dobbs decision, and the suspected narrative is that they are motivated to vote to protect abortion rights. However, voter registration is not a sign of turnout.
“I think it’s false to say that a person who registered in July is any more enthused than a person who registered in January,” Towey said.
Abortion certainly has motivated some amount of voters, but how many remains to be seen.
“It may have engaged some of their voters that were pretty disheartened, or not as enthused at the things coming out of D.C. There is a segment of voters that maybe are energized on the issue,” Towey said of the issue. “But at the end of the day, this election is going to be determined by a gas pedal, brake on the administration. I think it’s wrong to say this one issue is going to overshadow multiple years of pain that people have been suffering due to higher gas prices, higher cost of milk, higher prices across the board. Those are the issues that people are going to vote on in November.”
Oz is of the same mind.
“All Americans are concerned about kitchen table issues,” Oz told Fox News Digital. “The number one issue that I hear about, without any exception is the role of inflation and the economy in people’s lives. Their earnings have been ripped away from them. Their wages aren’t keeping up, and they don’t like the fact that new taxes are coming.”
New York Post columnist Salena Zito told Fox News Digital that since abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania — at least through the 23rd week of pregnancy, or later if the life of the mother is threatened — the issue is not a compelling issue for most voters.
“Because abortion remains legal for Pennsylvanians, it remains less of a compelling reason to vote for one candidate over the other in the US Senate race between Oz and Fetterman,” Zito said. “Now that doesn’t mean that Democrats wont try to make it an issue, Planned Parenthood has already stated they will spend millions in states like Pennsylvania to make that a top-of-the-line issue. Voters here still remain most motivated by the impacts of inflation, the recession, crime and the fentanyl crisis which has been largely fed by our open borders.”