Rural voters 'are not as energized' as Republicans hoped -- and that could sink their midterm chances
Rural Voters Oregon (AFP)

Republicans are noticing a worrying trend for their chances of retaking congressional majorities.

In four congressional special elections held since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights, suburban and urban counties averaged 27-percent turnout while rural counties averaged just 22 percent, and Democratic candidates in each of those contests overperformed President Joe Biden's results in 2020, reported Politico.

“Republicans are not as energized as they want or expected, and Democrats are very energized right now,” said Chris Walsh, the campaign manager for Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY), who won his special election last month in upstate New York. “The suburban voters who Republicans thought were just anti-Trump are now kind of coming to realize they’re anti-Republican. With the Dobbs decision, it really fired them up that this is still an existential fight for their lives.”

Republicans remain favored to win back a House majority, but Democrats believe conservative voters may have gotten complacent after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that's firing up suburban and urban voters.

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“A lot of rural voters, they’re more conservative religiously and they were very mobilized by abortion and now they think they’ve won,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster for Biden’s 2020 campaign. “Whenever you see a kind of falling-off of pro-life voters because they’re less engaged, you’re going to see that particularly in rural areas.”

Some Democrats think that rural voters are actually turned off by the end of abortion rights, even if they oppose them in principle.

“Unfortunately, the Republicans have been doing a lot better in rural areas over these last few cycles, and they finally kind of caught the car bumper," said Steve Bullock, the former governor of Montana and co-chair of the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. "Urban and rural folks didn’t necessarily think that Roe would be overturned or they’d work on a nationwide abortion ban. I think it’s suppressing some of the Republican interest in rural areas.”

"In rural areas where access to affordable and quality health care is already challenged," Bullock added, "when you turn around and say that you’ll have no reproductive health care in many states, I think that’s in part why we’re seeing what we’re seeing.”