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Voters in several US states go to the polls on Tuesday, an off-year election that will be seen as an indicator of which way the political winds are blowing for President Joe Biden, who is seeking re-election in 2024.
The contests include the governor’s race in Kentucky, where Democrat Andy Beshear is running for a second term in a red state where Donald Trump beat Biden by 26 points in 2020. Opinion polls show Beshear and his Republican opponent Daniel Cameron tied.
Meanwhile, a fight for control of the Virginia state legislature will mean either a major victory or a bitter defeat for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The former Carlyle executive, who was elected governor in 2021 with little political experience, has become the favorite of the Republican donor class, which has pushed him to make a late attempt to challenge Trump for the party’s presidential nomination.
The result in Ohio will also be a litmus test for public opinion on abortion, an issue that sapped Democratic support in last year’s midterm elections after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that upheld the legal right to abortion anchored and stimulated at the federal level.
Ohio has become increasingly Republican. Trump defeated Biden there by eight points in 2020, and last year Republican JD Vance defeated Democrat Tim Ryan by six points in a race for U.S. Senate.
But abortion advocates say they are optimistic that a majority of Ohio voters will support a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
Abortion could also play a role in deciding the results in Virginia, where Youngkin has tried to take a more moderate path by supporting a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions. That’s in contrast to states like Ohio, Iowa and Florida, where governors have signed so-called “heartbeat bills” that ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they are pregnant.
The off-year election comes amid worsening approval ratings and poll numbers for Biden as he prepares for a tough re-election campaign in 2024.
A year before the presidential election, a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden losing to Trump in five of the six swing states that are likely to decide the outcome.
The numbers sparked hand-wringing among Democrats, who privately worried about Biden’s age and apparent electoral weaknesses.
Despite his mounting legal troubles, Trump remains the undisputed frontrunner among Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in a primary process that will begin in earnest with the Iowa caucuses in January.
Trump will once again forego a televised debate with Republican candidates on Wednesday evening and instead hold a rally with supporters in Miami, Florida.