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Abortion to factor in senate race

When Ohio Republican leaders put a constitutional amendment on an Aug. 8 special election ballot to raise the threshold to pass future amendments from a simple majority to at least 60% of voters rather than a simple majority, it was largely to stop an abortion rights proposal from passing.

Voters rejected that proposal.

Had that issue passed in August, the abortion rights constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot would have failed. The amendment received support from 56.62% of voters, according to unofficial results. (A recreational marijuana proposal got 56.97% support, but it wasn’t a constitutional amendment, so the 60% threshold wouldn’t apply.)

Instead of stopping abortion, Republicans have breathed life into Democratic and liberal organizations and voters who oppose them.

Ohio has become more Republican over the past decade.

The only current Democrat elected statewide — not including three Ohio Supreme Court justices who ran without party labels — is U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who will seek his fourth six-year term next year.

While Ohio is still a Republican-controlled state, Democrats are feeling pretty good about Brown’s chances next year, particularly after the results from August and Tuesday. In addition to the abortion rights amendment, Brown backed the recreational marijuana initiated statute.

So where does that leave the three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Brown?

All three — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, businessman Bernie Moreno and state Sen. Matt Dolan — opposed the abortion rights amendment and the recreational marijuana initiated statute.

LaRose was the leading face of the failed Aug. 8 proposal and was out front against the abortion amendment. He also approved ballot language that abortion rights leaders said was misleading, though he said it was factual.

Had the amendment failed, Ohio has a six-week abortion ban, also known as the heartbeat bill, as law. It was being held up in court, but likely would have been enforced had the amendment failed.

Some of LaRose’s supporters told me that between those two failures at the ballot box and his inability to raise an impressive amount of money during his first reporting quarter, his bid for Senate looks shaky.

One told me that LaRose’s name recognition will go only so far, and Moreno is going to spend so much money on the race that LaRose is going to get steamrolled. Moreno announced Thursday a $2 million “initial phase” of a “statewide advertising blitz.”

Also, expect Dolan, who had given $7 million of his own money to his campaign as of Sept. 30, to make a lot of noise. He’s already spent money on commercials and will use every financial resource available to him to win the nomination.

Being anti-abortion is proving to be a losing issue for Republicans throughout the country. Democrats already are going after LaRose, Moreno and Dolan over it.

Moreno supports a 15-week federal abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the pregnant woman after that.

LaRose backs a national abortion ban, though he won’t say at how many weeks. He doesn’t support exceptions for rape and incest, but does for the life of the pregnant woman.

Dolan wants the states to determine abortion policies, but hasn’t ruled out a national ban if needed. He also wants exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Rachel Petri, Brown’s campaign manager, said the Republican candidates “would ignore Ohio women” if elected to the Senate, criticizing them for their positions.

She added: “Sherrod has always fought to protect women’s reproductive rights, and Ohioans know how out of step his opponents are” on this issue.

Ohio Republicans say Tuesday’s results aren’t the end of the abortion fight.

The American Policy Roundtable said the issue “is an unsustainable amendment” and the state Legislature should “pass a resolution to repeal and replace” it “with a more reasonable framework in the” November 2024 election.

U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, a Cincinnati Republican, said in a lengthy post on X, formerly Twitter: “We have to recognize how much voters mistrust us (meaning elected Republicans) on this issue,” and “we need people to see us as the pro-life party, not just the anti-abortion party.” He also called for some exceptions later in a pregnancy.

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