What the Devil won't tell you
Arizona abortion ruling supercharges Democratic chances in midterm
Will independent Az voters be moved to vote Blue after revival of 1864 ban on nearly all abortion care?
Arizona is now bracing as a near-total abortion ban takes effect in the days to come.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson has handed down a ruling clearing the way for Attorney General Mark Brnovich's plan to enforce a state law with origins dating back to the Civil War – 50 years before women had the vote.
Here's the thing: Flip just two seats in the Arizona House and Senate, and elect Katie Hobbs as governor and the ban will almost certainly go away. Republicans hold a 31-29 edge in the state House and a 17-13 advantage in the Senate. No other state has a Legislature this tightly divided.
It's 50 days before the midterm election and more than half the electorate has just been declared second-class citizens. Republicans insisted on that, and now have nowhere to hide. They must stand on their extremism in ruling the most personal part of people's lives.
And there's still time to register to vote.
Arizona had been living in a nether world of uncertainty awaiting the judge's ruling. Abortion was still legal pending a new 15-week ban approved this year by the Legislature taking effect and Brnovich's trip back to the Old West.
In the spring, Republicans were primed for a national landslide. After the U.S. Supreme Court handed down in June its decision stripping from women the right to an abortion, the Republican's race to the finish line suffered a blow-out.
No, I have not bought into the idea that Democrats are destined for a have a big night on Nov. 8. They do have reason to hope and if they can turn out their voters they can score some victories.
Judge Johnson's ruling and the timing are all but certain to give the Democratic base the motivation it needs to show up at the polls.
Now, I'm talking pure politics. I'm not going to go into the judge's ruling or get back into the policy of banning abortion.
From a political perspective, Republicans had a chance to survive the Supreme Court's decision in June.
They just had to follow Gov. Doug Ducey's lead and keep the issue focused on where to draw the line on abortion. Instead, they Brnovich-ed themselves.
The Ducey Plan
The 15-week ban Ducey signed this year made no exceptions for rape or incest, after the threshold.
But Republicans have been winning the debate by inventing and prohibiting "partial birth abortions" and decrying "abortion on demand."
One, partial birth abortion is a term invented by Republicans to describe late-term abortions, which are typically medical necessities and family tragedies. When was the last time anyone has talked to a woman nine-months pregnant the previous month and had them say "Know what? I decided 'Naaaahhh.'"
Two, all rights are rights "on demand." They are only relevant when invoked. It just sounds bad and left Democrats seeming like the party eager for as many abortions as they can get doctors to perform.
Republicans have proven themselves resilient when that's the conversation.
Ducey and the Legislature had a plan they were executing.
Then – from deep right field – came Brnovich saying "I got it! I got it!"
He insisted the century-and-a-half-old law banning abortion in virtually all cases be imposed as the law of the desert.
The newer statute specifically preserved the option of enforcing the age-old law. But Brnovich and the right could have let it rest until after the election.
Now the conversation isn't about how long activists would allow abortions but whether women can have them at all. Are 46 chromosomes more important than the life and liberty of the mother?
Brnovich's victory scrambles U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters' efforts to scramble the debate by signing onto U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's bill to establish a national 15-week ban, unless states want to go further with restrictions.
That law would have largely matched the 2021 law passed by the Legislature, but would add exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Voters could have rationalized, well, this won't effect me because I'll be able to make the decision before then.
Nope. Not anymore.
The way things oughta be
This election should be – and was gonna be – about the economy. In Arizona, Brnovich just made it personal and it doesn't get more personal than human reproduction.
Arizona seemed primed for a replay of the last two midterms after Democrats won the White House.
In 1992, Democrats made decent gains in Arizona as the nation elected Bill Clinton President. Then in 1994, they got hit so hard, the party went out of business for the rest of the decade. Something similar happened in 2010. Democrats had enjoyed a run of success, Barack Obama got elected and then bang! Republican voters brought out the hammer, when they remembered they were still conservative, even if they were pissed at the Republican Party.
This year, Arizona Democrats aren't just in the game, they had an edge before Johnson's ruling.
A poll released Sunday by NBC News showed Republicans leading by 19 points on the economy, 23 points on crime, 36 points on border security and 17 points on immigration.
So when asked which party the respondents wanted to see control Washington, they split right down the middle 46-46. A New York Times poll released late last week had Democrats up by 2 points.
Kelly looks like he's, if not cruising, maintaining level flight with a lead over Republican challenger Blake Masters. Hobbs is leading a tight race against Republican Kari Lake. There's not much polling in Tucson's Arizona 6th Congressional District race but an internal poll released by Democrat Kirsten Engel's campaign had her up by two points over Republican Juan Ciscomani.
The Arizona 6th leans about four points to the GOP because it's almost evenly divided among Trump and Biden voters but Biden won the popular vote by four. Ciscomani is the establishment choice. He's moderately normal but describes himself as pro-life. He should have this race in the bag. He doesn't. Lake and Masters should be up 5. They're not.
Hey, Republicans (and I ask with love) how are you screwing this up?
There's a Mercedes Benz in your driveway with the door open, engine running and the title is in y'all's name. Drive away with it.
The way it is
It's a simple game. Throw the ball. Hit the ball. Catch the ball. Republicans should be using their long-proven ability to control the debate to focus on inflation and the economy. Collect 40 house seats and five senate seats on election night.
Instead, Democrats have a chance to run the table in Arizona.
Voters might like to vote Republican this year but are within their rights to wonder if it will be the last vote they will cast with any consequence. The GOP is all but feloniously assaulting democracy. Voters might like Ciscomani, but there's the defeated former president still on the loose and insisting on absolute loyalty from the party seeking power.
I have a hard time believing an issue like abortion will alone overcome the voters' desire for prosperity and security. Republican abortion extremism has helped put in full relief all the other ways the party is out of step with voters.
Lake's race for governor has devolved into rants about "large phallic" energy possessed by the Republicans' most dangerous figures. She still insists life begins at conception and that's when the protections should start. She's still saying the 2020 election was stolen and laws have to be changed to prevent what didn't happen.
One Blake to another: You run on telling adults they have to stop having sex. I'll run on literally anything else and kick your ass.
I'll march down the main drag of Bullhead City flying rainbow-splashed banners of Chairman Mao and non-binary Disney characters and still carry Mohave County by 20 points.
Good lord, the Republicans have us worried about the Secretary of State's race. GOP candidate Mark Finchem might declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2024 election on Election Night 2022. He kept pushing 2020 election conspiracies during a debate this week against Democrat Adrian Fontes.
It's been years of the party excusing death threats, punching out flight attendants over mask mandates, efforts to violently seize power after losing an election.
'I'm not a kook'
Former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm – a big name in 1990s politics –once watched Arizona sports caster-turned-congressional candidate J.D. Hayworth deliver a bombastic turn on the campaign trail.
He pulled Hayworth aside and said (I'm slightly paraphrasing), " All you gotta say is two things: I'm not her (Hayworth's opponent Karan English) and I'm not a kook."
The GOP is failing on the latter directive. It's the lowest of possible bars and yet Republicans are trying to burrow under it.
Johnson's ruling just handed them a shovel.
Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.