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FWIW Virginia: McAuliffe, Dems Go on Offense Over Texas Abortion Law, Women’s Reproductive Rights; Also, Hala Ayala Rips Winsome Sears as Too “Dangerous” and “Divisive”

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From FWIW Virginia:

Reproductive Rights Take Center Stage in VA

Democrats, McAuliffe use Texas abortion law to go on offense

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Welcome to FWIW Virginia, where we analyze digital spending trends on both sides of the aisle in the 2021 Virginia statewide and legislative elections. Each week, we look at how campaigns are investing in digital engagement and the online tactics they use to reach voters across the Commonwealth. Was this email forwarded to you? Click here to subscribe. 

In the wake of a 5-4 Supreme Court action that declined to block the implementation of Texas’ 6 week abortion ban, abortion rights have come front and center in national politics, and Virginia is no exception.

With a woman’s right to choose now among the most salient issues in the current political climate, how are campaigns around the commonwealth talking to voters about abortion access? We take a look in this week’s edition of FWIW Virginia. But first…

2021 by the Numbers

FWIW, here are the top 10 spenders specifically targeting Facebook users in Virginia last week.

Lt. Gov. nominee Hala Ayala ramped up her spending last week, with a wave of Facebook ads attacking her Republican opponent Winsome Sears as too “dangerous” and “divisive” for Virginia.

And here are the top 10 spenders specifically targeting Virginians on Google’s platforms.

Zooming out nationally, here is how total digital ad spending (national and local targeting) on Facebook and Google stacked up this week in Virginia’s statewide races.

We’re also tracking cumulative digital ad spending across the state, including spending from candidates for statewide offices, competitive or potentially competitive Delegate races (any race under a 15 point margin in 2019), and partisan outside groups with spending specifically targeted at Virginia elections.

Democrats, McAuliffe use Texas abortion law to go on offense

On September 1st, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that declined to block Texas’ draconian 6-week abortion ban, which effectively bans abortion before the vast majority of women know that they’re pregnant and does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The ruling throws a wrench into an election where abortion largely wasn’t registering as a top issue with voters – in a late August poll commissioned by Crooked Media, just 2% of voters listed reproductive rights as a top issue.

However, this isn’t the first time that abortion has made headlines in Virginia this year – in July, GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin was recorded in an undercover video admitting that he’s hiding his real stance on abortion to avoid alienating moderate voters but is ready to “go on offense” against abortion as Governor.

It’s something that Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe’s campaign has spent months hammering home with key swing voters, running dozens of ads through their “The Download VA” Facebook page boosting Youngkin’s previous comments to voters. In addition, McAuliffe’s campaign went up with ads earlier this week tying Youngkin to the Texas abortion bill through the same page.

In his own public comments about the Texas bill, McAuliffe described the bill as “horrifying, devastating, and so dangerous for women,” and also called for codifying Roe v. Wade in the state Constitution on a conference call with reporters. McAuliffe also has a track record on reproductive rights – in 2017, he vetoed every bill that restricted a woman’s right to choose.

Youngkin, on the other hand, hasn’t stated his opinion on the Texas bill. In recent comments, he’s stated that he’s pro-life, but believes in exceptions “for rape, incest and when the life of a mother is in jeopardy.” Youngkin also thoroughly embraced the pro-life label in the GOP convention campaign, his campaign went as far as running ads where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz touts Youngkin’s pro-life credentials.

Meanwhile, Youngkin is busy trying to paint McAuliffe as the real “radical” on abortion. His campaign recently tweeted that “Terry McAuliffe wants to be an abortion governor” and posts an interview where he claims that McAuliffe supports “any kind” of abortion, something that McAuliffe clearly doesn’t say in the clip.

We haven’t seen many mainstream GOP candidates in Virginia embrace a Texas-style abortion ban… except GOP nominee for Lt. Governor Winsome Sears. In a recent Newsmax interview (h/t to WaPo), Sears came out in support of passing a similar heartbeat ban in Virginia.

Sears’ interview didn’t go unnoticed – Hala Ayala, the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor, attacked Sears for her statements on Tuesday at a press conference with the entire Democratic ticket.

With less than two months until Election Day, the Texas law has managed to shake up the race in Virginia, bringing new issues to center stage. As both sides continue to paint the other side as out of step on the issue, we’ll continue to track how candidates from both parties talk to voters about reproductive rights.

Thanks for reading this week’s FWIW Virginia! We’re so excited to be back following these critical elections in the Commonwealth. If you enjoy reading this type of content each week, we hope you’ll support our work by clicking share and tweeting out this newsletter below! As always, email us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next.

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