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Duke political experts discuss the impact of abortion, other factors on 2022 midterms

Panelists Kerry Haynie, Mac McCorkle, and Asher Hildebrand at Duke University's media briefing on the midterm elections.
Grace Vitaglione
Panelists Kerry Haynie, Mac McCorkle, and Asher Hildebrand at Duke University's media briefing on the midterm elections.

This midterm season is different from past elections because of the possible influence from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, according to the panel. Until that point, the outlook hadn’t been great for Democrats as the incumbent party; now, that could change.

In eastern North Carolina, many voters are pro-life. But panelist Kerry Haynie, a professor of political science and African American studies, said the issue is not just abortion itself.

The lengths to which many abortion policies have been taken since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June can be alarming to some voters, he said.

“When you have state legislatures that make no exception, that takes the case beyond abortion; it becomes some kind of extreme politics,” Haynie said. “Like in the cases of rape and incest, [there’s] no exception.”

Still, panelist Mac McCorkle said Republicans hold a majority in the North Carolina legislature, meaning they don’t have to win a lot of seats to keep it that way.

“Eastern North Carolina is always going to be a tough place for Democrats,” McCorkle said.

Another point that could work in Republicans’ favor is that many of the Black lawmakers who make up a rural stronghold for Democrats in eastern North Carolina are pro-life.

However, Haynie said excitement around having a Black woman at the top of the ballot is important, and her pro-choice position may not be enough to outplay that.

“So the hope [for the Democratic party] is that Beasley on the ticket will drive up turnout among those Black Democrats who historically haven’t shown up as much in different elections,” he said.

Panelist Mac McCorkle, a professor of public policy, said the Democratic base seems to be engaging more with Beasley than Republicans are with Ted Budd.

McCorkle said Budd is still trying to find a balance between likening himself to well-known North Carolina Republicans like Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, while also appealing to Trump-loyal Republicans. He said it’s a risky game to play in terms of losing swing voters or far-right voters.

Meanwhile, McCorkle said Beasley has done a good job of setting herself apart from “a usual Democrat.”

Panelists also underscored that a lot of factors, including inflation and the influence of former-president Donald Trump, could drastically change the dynamics of the election before November.

Grace Vitaglione is a multimedia journalist, recently graduated from American University. I’m attracted to issues of inequity and my reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, I’ve investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast and produced student-led video stories.