In the last election, we saw the abortion and choice issue become a fundamental tipping point, not just in national elections, but in regional ones as well. Today it remains no less vital as Virginia gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli may sacrifice key female votes in the next election in order to keep his stringent anti-abortion stance.
Normally, a solid portion of this demographic would be downright ambivalent to voting in the gubernatorial race. But according to a statewide survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Cuccinelli's position on abortion had a bigger effect on the voting patterns among this group than any other issue. In particular, it drove women to increase their intensity and support for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Among the biggest issues for Virginia, including guns, health care, college/education costs, and transportation, "protecting a woman's right to choose" beat out each and every one in Virginia's three-biggest media markets. As an elected official running for office, these kinds of numbers are likely nerve-racking at best.
Pollster Drew Lieberman commented on the abortion issue, "I'm not saying it's going to be a bigger issue than jobs or the economy or transportation, but it's not an issue at the margins. It is fundamental."
Especially considering the history of Virginia in the last presidential election, it is clear that abortion policy is a divisive platform for any politician. In particular, President Barack Obama used Mitt Romney's opposition to abortion to his strategic advantage in northern Virginia. With that evidence on his side, Cuccinelli's competition, McAuliffe, has been actively working to re-activate the Obama coalition to regularly attack Cuccinelli on hot-button social issues.
The question for the governor is now this: which social side, pro-life or pro-choice, is worth risking the election? Cuccinelli will likely stick to his history of outspoken anti-abortion policy, but try and shift his focus to other major political issues, namely job creation. Virginia's constitutents are wondering whether Cuccinelli stick to his promises made during this year's race. He has firmly stated that he would not invest political capital in pushing a social agenda if he wins. Rather, while his underlying principles haven't changed, Cuccinelli will focus his energy toward economic growth of the state.
Not surprisingly, both the Democratic and the Republican candidate platforms have begun smear campaigns, denouncing each other as manipulative, exploitative, and ultimately harmful to the health of women and children everywhere. However, based on Cuccinelli's track record of supporting bills that demand excessive surgical capabilities to shut down abortion clinics, proposing an amendment to end state funding for Planned Parenthood, cosponsoring a life-begins-at-conception personhood law, and other alarming bills, evidence suggests that the Democratic party will continue to snowball support.
From Politico: "The [Greenberg] survey, conducted June 22 to June 30, reached 600 women in Virginia who either voted in 2008 or 2012 but did not vote in 2009, or who registered since the 2009 gubernatorial election and voted in 2012 but not in 2010. Of this sample, 69% identified themselves as 'pro-choice' and 79% of those said they voted for Obama in 2012."
These numbers, while small, may still foreshadow the outcome of Virginia's next governor.