The next abortion rights battleground

The next abortion rights battleground

MAJORITY RULE — Abortion rights activists in Ohio have collected over 700,000 signatures — almost twice the required 413,466 — for a November ballot initiative that would codify the right to an abortion in the state constitution. If it passes this fall, Ohio’s constitution would add abortion rights that resemble protections under Roe.

While it sounds straightforward enough, there’s a wrinkle: In an attempt to hinder these efforts, Republicans have responded with their own ballot measure that would require 60 percent of the vote for a constitutional amendment to pass — a notable increase from the current simple majority requirement. The timing here is key: Ohioans will vote on this measure in an Aug. 8 special election, and if it passes, the 60 percent threshold will apply to the November results.

The proposed 60 percent requirement is no small matter. While abortion rights won in all six states that had abortion measures on the ballot in 2022, in four of those elections the majorities were under 60 percent.

Republican state Rep. Brian Stewart, who first introduced the measure, has made it clear that abortion was a motivating factor in the attempt to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments. “After decades of Republicans’ work to make Ohio a pro-life state, the Left intends to write abortion on demand into Ohio’s Constitution,” the lawmaker wrote in a memo to his colleagues in December. “If they succeed, all the work accomplished by multiple Republican majorities will be undone, and we will return to 19,000+ babies being aborted each and every year.”

There’s good reason to be worried about the prospect of a pro-abortion constitutional amendment passing in Ohio. In a recent survey, 58 percent of Ohio voters say they support enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution. Even in deep-red Kansas, 59 percent of voters rejected a 2022 amendment that would have stripped constitutional rights to an abortion.

A survey last week also showed that 57 percent of likely Ohio voters were opposed to the August ballot measure that would make it harder to change the constitution.

The results for both the August and November election will likely come down to turnout since off-year elections (and especially those held in the summer) attract fewer voters and tend to stay under the radar. And already, voters are showing up in hoards. Over 155,000 voters have cast their ballot early — a five-fold increase in voter activity compared to the August statewide primary election of 2022, according to the secretary of state’s office. The message seems clear: Abortion will continue to be a driving force in 2024 elections.

Ohio Democrats are counting on it, in the hopes of riding the momentum from this year’s abortion-focused elections to help them win high-stake 2024 congressional battles, including Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s reelection. Ohio is no longer viewed as a swing state after voting for Trump in both 2016 and 2020 but Democratic strategist Irene Lin, who helped collect signatures for the abortion-rights campaign, believes that a win for pro-abortion activists in both the August and November election could provide an important boost to the party’s prospects.

“I always think that we can’t give up on Ohio,” Lin said. “So it’ll definitely give us a shot in the arm and some hope. I don’t think Ohio is as red as everyone thinks we are from the outside.”

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— Judge declines to approve Hunter Biden plea deal for now: Hunter Biden’s plea deal hit a major roadblock during an unexpectedly contentious federal court hearing today as prosecutors and Biden’s attorneys initially disagreed about the scope of the agreement and the judge then balked at approving the deal. After pressing both sides for details about the deal, U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika adjourned the hearing so that the two sides could refine and clarify the agreement — under which the president’s son had planned to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax offenses and likely avoid punishment on a felony gun charge.

— Giuliani won’t contest Georgia election workers’ claims that he falsely accused them of manipulating ballots: Rudy Giuliani made significant concessions late Tuesday in a long-running defamation lawsuit by two Georgia election workers, dropping efforts to challenge their claim that he falsely accused the pair of manipulating ballots in the 2020 election. In a two-page statement filed in federal court just before midnight Tuesday, Giuliani said he “does not contest” that his statements, which fueled a torrent of public attacks on the workers — Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss — were “false” and “carry meaning that is defamatory.”

— Light-headedness caused McConnell to freeze, abruptly leave press conference: Mitch McConnell abruptly stopped his opening remarks at an afternoon press conference today, causing alarm when he left for a few minutes and then returning to answer questions. The Senate minority leader only got through a few words of his speech about the chamber’s annual defense bill, then trailed off and stared straight ahead for a few minutes as his fellow senators asked if he was OK. A McConnell aide said he was feeling light-headed. McConnell himself said “I’m fine” following the brief episode and took questions from reporters.

— Fed hikes rates again — and leaves options open for more: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates today for the 11th time in more than a year to kill inflation, in what investors hope will be the last hike in 2023. But central bank officials are cautioning that there might be more increases coming. The central bank’s rate-setting committee will assess how much borrowing costs are already crimping growth “in determining the extent [to which further rate hikes] may be appropriate,” it said in a statement after meetings this week.

DANIELS DEMURS — Mitch Daniels said that he has had informal conversations with backers of the centrist group No Labels about their efforts to run a third-party presidential ticket.

But the former Indiana Republican governor scoffed at the idea that he would be a candidate for such a unity campaign. “They’re too smart to ask, and I’m too smart to say ‘yes,’” Daniels told POLITICO in an interview when asked whether he was weighing a third-party bid on behalf of the organization.

That Daniels, who famously eschews political labels like “conservative” or “liberal,” would sidestep entreaties from a political outfit that calls itself No Labels as a potential candidate is another sign of the difficulty the group might have in fielding credible candidates.

DA VEK — Before he was an upstart candidate for president and a philosophical leader of what he dubs the “anti-woke” movement, before he was a New York Times bestselling author and wealthy biotech entrepreneur, Vivek Ramaswamy was a rapper, POLITICO reports.

During his time as an undergrad at Harvard, Ramaswamy had a side-hustle as a libertarian-minded rap artist who went by the stage name “Da Vek.” The gig was an early sign of the extroverted, self-assured personality that has propelled him far further in the primary than virtually anyone expected.

WATCHING RERUNS — In 1948, President Harry Truman was on the ropes. He was personally unpopular and faced breakaway candidates to his left (former Vice President Henry Wallace, running as the head of the Progressive Party) and to his right (the Dixiecrats, headed by Strom Thurmond). Although Truman lost 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes to Thurmond and another 2.4% of the vote to Wallace, he managed to beat Republican Thomas Dewey by 49.6% to 45.1%.

The story of the 2024 presidential campaign could be a rerun of 1948 — with a different ending. As in 1948, an unpopular incumbent Democratic president may well face Democratic defections to his left and his right, according to the Brookings Institution’s William Galston.. A leading Black public intellectual, Cornel West, will be filling Henry Wallace’s slot as the presidential nominee of the Green Party. To Joe Biden’s right, No Labels is threatening to run an “independent bipartisan” ticket that could be headed by centrists such as Larry Hogan, the former never-Trump Republican governor of Maryland; Joe Manchin, the moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia; or Arizona’s independent senator, Kyrsten Sinema.

MIGRATING GOALS — Bitter infighting today derailed EU ambassadors’ attempts to finish off the last plank of the EU’s flagship migration reform, writes Gregorio Sorgi.

As a result, officials will have to break for the summer without completing work on the overall package, which would reshape how the EU processes and relocates migrants across the Continent.

The stumbling block proved to be the so-called “crisis mechanism,” which details measures to lift pressure on EU border countries facing spikes in people seeking asylum. Frontline countries, mostly in the south, are keen to be relieved of certain requirements if arrival numbers skyrocket, but northern countries are wary of rescinding some rules.

The result was a stalemate this week — and a decision to come back at it after the holiday break. There was even speculation that the talks might slip all the way to a meeting of home affairs ministers at the end of September. “The latest draft landed very late,” said one EU diplomat who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “And several countries wanted to have more time to analyze it.”

The development is a setback for EU officials, who were hoping to reach a deal on the crisis regulation before the end of the summer and then negotiate with the European Parliament on a final agreement. Parliament has indicated it won’t approve other files under negotiation until EU countries reach a deal on the whole package.

A second EU diplomat expressed “disappointment” for missing the unofficial end-of-July deadline. But he indicated that the EU still intends to approve the entire asylum package before the European parliamentary election in June next year.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD — The writers’ — and now actors’ — strikes that have slowed Hollywood to a halt are about a lot of issues, from artificial intelligence to profit sharing. But what if the problems inherent in the industry are deeper than most people realize? In the past few years, the movie industry has struggled to recover from Covid losses and streaming services are producing all kinds of television that people just aren’t watching? The same thing is beginning to happen across other American cultural industries, including album sales. For Unherd, David Samuels takes a look at the history of American pop culture and the structural factors behind why it’s so difficult to find a deal right now.

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