The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Republicans reluctant to tout Roe decision they have long sought

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. Margaret Thatcher became Britain's prime minister 43 years ago today. Tips: Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition J.D. Vance secures the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio … Rep. Shontel Brown defeats Nina Turner in primary rematch …  but first …

🚨: “The European Union has proposed a plan to phase out Russian oil imports by end of year, ratcheting up its efforts to cut off a key source of funding for the Kremlin," our colleagues Emily Rauhala and Quentin Ariès report. It's “a dramatic shift for the E.U., which in March told the United States it couldn’t join a Russian energy embargo.”

On the Hill

Democrats seek to make Roe an election year issue as Republicans take wait-and-see approach

Democrats have been only too eager to talk about the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade as they seek to energize their voters ahead of what is expected to be a difficult midterm election for the party.

Republicans have opted for a different tactic. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have mostly refused to discuss the political and policy implications of Roe's potential demise while trying to focus attention on the leak through furious condemnations, even after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. confirmed the draft opinion's authenticity and said the court would open an investigation to find the leaker.

“You need to concentrate on what the news is today. Not a leaked draft but the fact that a draft was leaked,” he chided reporters.

Republicans have spent decades railing against Roe while running on antiabortion platforms and promising to appoint judges who would overturn the landmark 1973 decision. The hesitancy by top GOP officials Tuesday to herald the news that what they have long sought they could soon obtain suggested a concern, or at least some initial uncertainty, about whether Roe's demise could have some political drawbacks for the party.

A conservative political strategist told The Early that Republicans would use the leak as a “shield” to bide time, adding it will be “uncomfortable” for many of them, in part, because of the political uncertainty surrounding the issue for some Republican candidates. 

One Republican Senate strategist offered a glimpse into the party’s worries in an interview with our colleague Marianna Sotomayor in the days before Politico published the draft Monday evening, when Republicans were mulling the possibility that Court could strike down Roe.

Something “that keeps us up at night in some ways is the open question about abortion and what the Supreme Court does,” said the strategist, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss party strategy, after noting the party saw few other reasons to believe it would not score a resounding victory in the midterms. 

This strategist noted that all competitive states have major metropolitan areas where abortion could influence suburban women.  

“So it's really just about, you know, figuring out exactly what the right frame is there. Is it a situation where the best solution is to pivot away and make the election as little as possible about abortion as Democrats try to make it as much as possible about abortion?” the strategist said.

The suburban women vote

Republicans have worked hard to win back suburban women who abandoned the party after Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and helped Democrats recapture the House two years later. 

Women are a little more likely than men to favor keeping abortion legal; 62 percent of women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center, while only 56 percent of men say the same.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a memo advising GOP senators on how to talk about the possible realization of one of the party’s top objectives, which emphasized taking a gentle approach toward the issue. The memo was first reported by Axios.

“I’m not in favor of putting women or doctors in jail,” the memo advised Republicans to say in their ads this year. “I would never take away anyone’s contraception or health care. That’s just the typical BS you get from politicians.”

While Republicans must address abortion on the campaign trail, for now, they plan to continue to focus on the economy, which they view as their best issue with voters. They’ll hold a news conferences Wednesday titled “Biden’s failing economy.”

Democrats are already working to figure out the districts where concern about abortion rights might be most salient.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group that announced Monday it plans to spend $150 million on the midterms in partnership with two other groups, is focusing its efforts on 18 House seats, including districts in suburban Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit and Philadelphia.

“We had a big uptick in donations and traffic to our website last night after the opinion became public,” Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for the group, wrote in an email to The Early.

Donations were up more than 1,400 percent compared to the previous day, she said.

‘An issue is never a message’

Some foes of abortion argue that overturning Roe would motivate conservatives, too.

“A strong defense of life is a vote winner,” Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist for Students for Life, one of the largest antiabortion groups, told our colleagues Dan Balz, Colby Itkowitz and Caroline Kitchener. “It energizes people.”

And one Democratic strategist close to the White House told Dan, Colby and Caroline that focusing on abortion wouldn’t be enough for Democrats to prevail in November.

“This is not our midterm message. An issue is never a message,” the strategist said. “The issue of whether a woman has a right to get an abortion or not needs to be wrapped in a broader frame of individual rights and a political party that is geared very much toward bullying and taking away those rights from people.”

Democrats furious over the strong possibility the Court will overturn Roe immediately began focusing on how to use the decision to help keep their majority. Party leaders insist a decision by the Court will motivate voters who may otherwise stay home in November.

Senate Democrats are planning a vote on legislation to codify Roe as early as next week, even though the vote is almost certain to fail due to Republican opposition. But the party is hoping it will keep the issue in the forefront, even if it risks showing Democrats inability to do anything about it despite controlling two branches of the government. And they want Republican vote positions on record, which will likely be used against them in campaigns. 

“Now it becomes very real with the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “People always counted on Roe v. Wade as the floor. That floor is now going to disappear.”

Here's the latest from our colleagues: 

The campaign

Vance triumphs in Ohio, with Trump's help

J.D. Vance secured the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat in Ohio on Tuesday — with the aid of a Trump endorsement, our colleagues Annie Linskey and Dave Weigel report.

Vance triumphed over a divided field of Republicans. He was leading with 32 percent of the vote on Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press. He’ll face Rep. Tim Ryan, who easily won the Democratic nomination, in November.

Vance’s victory is the latest evidence of the power of Trump’s endorsement. Two Republicans endorsed by Trump running for open House seats, Max Miller and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, also prevailed in their races on Tuesday.

But Vance — who repudiated his past criticism of Trump before securing the former president's endorsement — defeated a field of other candidates who sought Trump’s imprimatur, including Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer; the businessman Mike Gibbons; and former state party chairwoman Jane Timken. Only state Sen. Matt Dolan didn’t court Trump’s favor.

“It wasn’t really Trump versus the establishment because it was Trump versus Trump versus Trump versus Trump,” former Ohio Republican congressman Steve Stivers told The Early on Tuesday.

Vance will succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman if he wins in November. 

While Portman and Vance aren’t aligned on every issue — Portman has been outspoken in support of Ukraine, while Vance has expressed ambivalence — Ohio Republicans say the differences between the two men are more stylistic than ideological.

If he wins, Vance is likely to spend “more time on Fox and Newsmax than in the well of the Senate negotiating out an amendment to fix a bill or get something across the finish line,” said Jeff Sadosky, a former Portman aide.

Brown defeats Turner in primary rematch

“Democratic U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown beat former state Sen. Nina Turner for the second time since last summer, easily prevailing in an Ohio primary billed nationally as a key showdown between the party’s more moderate establishment and its activist progressive wing,” AP News’ Will Weissert and Julie Carr Smyth report.

A spokesperson for Team Blue PAC, which is led by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Terri Sewell (Ala.) and works to defend incumbents against challengers from the left, told The Early 202 that Brown's win was “a decisive victory.”

“It was hard-earned and demonstrates what a dedicated and active member of Congress can do to make life better for families, even in just a few short months,” spokesperson Maria Claudia Hurtado said.

“These results are further proof that voters in Ohio and across the country want common sense Democrats, and that we must have a big-tent party focused on bringing people together and delivering real results for the American people.”

🗳️More election results:



The Media

What we’re reading: 


Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.