Election Day is four days away. Polls are flooding in, candidates and their surrogates are trying to be everywhere at once, and no one could be blamed for having trouble keeping track. That’s where we come in.
Here’s what to know today:
The overturning of Roe v. Wade, while highly motivating for the Democratic base, has not been the political silver bullet Democrats hoped it would be. Strategists say voters remain uncertain about the new tangle of state laws and about candidates’ positions, a sign that Republicans may have successfully muddied the waters.
Wisconsin Republicans, buoyed by gerrymandered maps, have a chance to win veto-proof supermajorities in the State Legislature. If they manage that, it would make Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, functionally irrelevant even if he wins his hard-fought re-election campaign.
Regardless of how the most outspoken election deniers perform in their secretary of state races on Tuesday, the furious political climate has already transformed an office whose occupants have often prided themselves on staying distanced from partisan trench warfare.
Senator Bernie Sanders has rallies scheduled in Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday to try to mobilize young voters, who supported him in large numbers during his presidential campaigns. Democrats are worried they will not turn out this year.
The Democratic and Republican Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz, both have events scheduled on Friday. Oprah Winfrey was instrumental in the rise to prominence of Dr. Oz, the celebrity television doctor, but she announced her support for his opponent Mr. Fetterman on Thursday.
It escaped the notice of most in the national political press.
But a stray comment President Biden made in a local television interview last week spoke volumes about Democrats’ struggle to find a winning message on inflation.
“By the way,” Biden began, “the food prices — the main driver of food prices — is not the price of beef and eggs, etc., although they’re up. It’s packaged goods, packaged goods.”
Then the gaffe: “You’re going to see people not buying Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. You’re going to see them buying other raisin bran, which is going to be a dollar cheaper.”
Needless to say, eat generic raisin bran is not exactly a poll-tested, winning message. Clips of that comment went viral on the right, racking up tens of thousands of views on conservative YouTube and TikTok channels.
Biden’s remark undercut what he had just claimed seconds earlier — that his administration was succeeding in tackling rising prices for gasoline and groceries.
FRANKS FIELD, Wis. — The three counties in Wisconsin’s far northwest corner make up one of the last patches of rural America that have remained loyal to Democrats through the Obama and Trump years.
But after voting Democratic in every presidential election since 1976, and consistently sending the party’s candidates to the State Legislature for even longer, the area could now defect to the Republican Party. The ramifications would ripple far beyond the shores of Lake Superior.
If Wisconsin Democrats lose several low-budget state legislative contests here on Tuesday — which appears increasingly likely because of new and even more gerrymandered political maps — it may not matter who wins the $114 million tossup contest for governor between Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Tim Michels, a Republican. Those northern seats would put Republicans in reach of veto-proof supermajorities that would render a Democratic governor functionally irrelevant.
Even though Wisconsin remains a 50-50 state in statewide elections, Democrats would be on the verge of obsolescence.
“The erosion of our democratic institutions that Republicans are looking to take down should be frightening to anyone,” said John Adams, a Democratic candidate for the State Assembly from Washburn, on the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior. “When you start losing whole offices in government, I don’t know where they’re going to stop.”
This rural corner of Wisconsin — Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Counties — has become pivotal because it has three Democratic-held seats that Republicans appear likely to capture; two in the Assembly and one in the State Senate. Statewide, the party needs to flip just five Assembly districts and one in the Senate to take the two-thirds majorities required to override a governor’s veto.
That outcome — “terrifying,” as Melissa Agard, a Democratic state senator and the leader of the party’s campaign arm in the chamber, described it — would clear a runway for Republican state legislators to follow through on their promises to eliminate the state’s bipartisan elections commission and take direct control of voting procedures and the certification of elections.
Wisconsin is not the only state facing the prospect of a Democratic governor and veto-proof Republican majorities in its legislature.
North Carolina Republicans, who also drew a gerrymandered legislative map, need to flip just three seats in the State House and two in the State Senate to be able to override vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas, a Democrat in a tight contest for re-election, already faces veto-proof Republican majorities, as do the Democratic governors of deep-red Kentucky and Louisiana.
Wisconsin Republicans, who have had a viselike grip on the Legislature since enacting the nation’s most aggressive gerrymander after their 2010 sweep of the state’s elections, make no apologies for pressing their advantage to its limits. Mr. Michels, the party’s nominee for governor, told supporters this week, “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.”
Former Representative Reid Ribble, a Republican who served northeastern Wisconsin, said, “There’s a lot of complaining about gerrymandered House or State Assembly seats, and there’s some truth to that.”
But he added: “At the end of the day, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a district in rural Wisconsin that would elect a Democrat right now.”
Republican control of the Wisconsin Legislature is so entrenched that party officials now use it as a campaign tactic. Craig Rosand, the G.O.P. chairman in Douglas County, said that because Democrats had so little influence at the State Capitol, voters who want a say in their government should elect Republicans.
“The majority caucus always determines what passes,” he said. “Having a representative that’s part of the majority gets them in the room where the decisions are made.”
Of Wisconsin’s 33 State Senate seats, 17 are on the ballot on Tuesday, including two Democratic-held districts that President Donald J. Trump carried in 2020. The picture is similarly bleak for Democrats in the State Assembly, where President Biden, who won the state by about 20,000 votes, carried just 35 of 99 districts.
“When you can win a majority of voters and have close to a third of the seats, it’s not true democracy,” said Greta Neubauer, the Democratic leader in the State Assembly. “We are very much at risk of people deciding that it’s not worthwhile for them to continue to engage because they see how rigged the system is against the people of the state in favor of Republican politicians.”
As former President Barack Obama campaigned for Wisconsin Democrats on Saturday in Milwaukee, he addressed the implications of Republican supermajorities in the Legislature.
“If they pick up a few more seats in both chambers, they’ll be able to force through extreme, unpopular laws on everything from guns to education to abortion,” Mr. Obama said. “And there won’t be anything Democrats can do about it.”
The Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature say they will bring back all 146 bills Mr. Evers has vetoed during his four years in office — measures on elections, school funding, pandemic mitigation efforts, policing, abortion and the state’s gun laws — if they win a supermajority or if Mr. Michels is elected. Mr. Evers warned of “hand-to-hand combat” to find moderate Republican legislators to sustain vetoes if he is re-elected with a G.O.P. supermajority.
“Katy, bar the door,” Mr. Evers said Thursday during an interview on his campaign bus in Ashland. “They’re going to shove all this stuff down our throat and it’s going to happen quickly and before anybody can pay attention. It could be bad.”
Mr. Evers predicted that Democrats would be able to narrowly sustain veto power in the Assembly. The State Senate, he said, is “tougher.”
In northwest Wisconsin, the three incumbent Democratic legislators decided against running for re-election under new, more Republican-friendly maps. Under the old maps, Mr. Biden carried each of the districts, which are home to large numbers of unionized workers in paper mills, mines and shipyards. Under the new lines Republicans adopted last year, Mr. Trump would have won them all.
Kelly Westlund, a Democrat running for the State Senate here, spent Wednesday morning going up and down the long driveways of rural homes 15 miles south of Superior. It was grueling door-to-door outreach that illustrated the difficulty of introducing herself to voters as a new candidate in a new district that includes three media markets.
“You don’t find a whole lot of folks here that are super jazzed about Joe Biden,” Ms. Westlund said. “But you do find people that understand there’s a lot at stake.”
Her pitch included warnings about what would happen if Republicans flip her seat and claim a supermajority. Few of the voters she met knew much about the candidates for the Legislature — but they did express strong feelings about the national parties.
“The Democrats have to own up to a certain amount of things that are going on now,” said John Tesarek, a retired commercial floor installer who would not commit to voting for Ms. Westlund. “I’m not totally certain I’m hearing them own up to much.”
The picture wasn’t much different during early voting at the city clerk’s office in Superior.
Ann Marie Allen, a hospital janitor, said she had voted for Mr. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democrat challenging Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican. But she said she had also backed Ms. Westlund’s Republican opponent, Romaine Quinn, because she liked that he had his toddler son in his commercials. Mr. Quinn has spent eight times as much on TV ads as Ms. Westlund has.
“There was no smut in his ads,” Ms. Allen said. “You know how they cut down on other people? There wasn’t that much of that.”
Chad Frantz, a plumber, said he had voted a straight Republican ticket.
“I’ve been watching the Democrats bash every Republican,” he said. “They’ve been trying to make out every guy that’s a Republican running for a position into a male chauvinist pig.”
Mayor Jim Paine of Superior, a Democrat, said Republicans were capitalizing on “fissures” in local Democratic politics between union workers and environmentalists.
“Labor and the environment are both very important, but it’s leading to very real challenges,” Mr. Paine said. “They’re breaking up. That’s why you see more Republicans getting elected.”
The Republicans likely to head to Madison are far different from their Democratic predecessors.
Nick Milroy, a moderate Democrat, won seven terms in the Assembly and ran unopposed for a decade until he was re-elected in 2020 by just 139 votes. His old district was Democratic in presidential years; Mr. Trump carried the new one by two percentage points.
The Republican who would replace him is Angie Sapik, a marketing executive. During the Capitol riot in 2021, Ms. Sapik tweeted, “It’s about time Republicans stood up for their rights,” “Rage on, Patriots!” and “Come on, Mike Pence!”
In a brief phone call, Ms. Sapik agreed to an interview, then ended the call and did not respond to subsequent messages.
Her Democratic opponent is Laura Gapske, a Superior school board member who said she had to call the police after receiving threatening calls when advertising that promoted Ms. Sapik’s candidacy included her cellphone number.
Democrats here described an uphill battle against better-funded Republican opponents, with the political atmosphere colored by inflation, concerns about faraway crime and an unpopular president.
They also spoke of the difficulty of spreading their message in what is effectively a news desert.
Mr. Adams, the Assembly candidate, is running in a district Mr. Trump would have carried by four points. Last week, Mr. Adams — an organic farmer who previously worked at small-town newspapers in Minnesota and Montana — drove two hours each way to Rhinelander to be interviewed by a local TV station.
“Because we live in a low-media environment up here, too many of us are getting our cable news and not enough are getting our local news,” he said. “If Fox News is telling the story of Democrats, then we lose.”
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Standing before a dozen volunteer poll workers gathered in an old wood-paneled community auditorium that would soon be transformed into a polling place, Mac Warner invited his audience to look at his socks.
They were stitched with the hashtag #TRUSTEDINFO2020: a souvenir of a campaign that Mr. Warner, West Virginia’s secretary of state since 2017, had waged with his fellow secretaries across the country before the last presidential election, an effort to raise awareness of disinformation efforts targeting voters.
“Don’t get your information from Facebook,” he told the poll workers. “Don’t get it from Google. Don’t get it from social media. Get it from trusted sources.”
A former officer in the Army with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps who has assisted government ministries running elections in Afghanistan, Mr. Warner earned the respect of his fellow secretaries of state — most of whom, like Mr. Warner, serve as the top election official in their states — in 2020 for his particular commitment to fighting misinformation and security threats at the ballot box.
But some of them have been more reluctant to praise him since December 2020, when he climbed onstage at a rally outside the State Capitol in Charleston the month after Donald J. Trump lost the presidential election, holding up a sign that said “STOP THE STEAL.”
“It’s so important to keep him in office,” Mr. Warner, speaking of Mr. Trump, told an interviewer from Right Side Broadcasting Network at the rally.
Today, Mr. Warner walks a delicate line. He acknowledges that Joseph R. Biden Jr. “was elected,” in 2020, but questions whether the election was run fairly in some states. He has worked to debunk conspiracy theories about voting machines and laments the rise of fringe views within his party. But he also compares the voting rights bills congressional Democrats tried to pass this year to the foreign influence campaigns he fought in 2020, and he blames the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in part on the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a long-shot challenge to the election from Texas’s attorney general, which he supported.
“I believe that’s what spurred on the Jan. 6 people,” he said.
In 40 states, secretaries serve as the chief elections officer, overseeing the voting process — a role that only rarely attracted attention until Mr. Trump and his allies, promoting a range of lies and conspiracy theories about his 2020 loss, thrust it into the center of partisan politics.
Mr. Trump has continued to loudly blame his loss on secretaries of state in several states — most often Georgia, where Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, resisted Mr. Trump’s direct entreaties to overturn the election. A handful of secretary of state races have commanded national political attention and spending this year as Trump loyalists like Mark Finchem in Arizona and Kristina Karamo in Michigan have campaigned for the office on claims of the stolen election.
“When I ran for this job in 2019, the first question I always got was, ‘What does your office do?’” said Michael Adams, the Republican secretary of state of Kentucky. “I don’t get that question anymore.”
Regardless of how the most outspoken election deniers perform on Tuesday, the furious political climate has already transformed an office whose occupants have often prided themselves on their remove from partisan trench warfare. At a time when Republican and Democratic congressmen barely talk to each other, secretaries of state still speak with warmth about their colleagues from the other party. They socialize over cocktails at annual meetings and exchange text messages over election law cases they vigorously disagree about.
But those relationships have been tested by the last two years, several secretaries of state said in interviews. Democrats have been offended by some Republicans’ sowing doubt without evidence about elections in other states. Republicans charge that Democrats have used Mr. Trump’s election lies as a pretext to paint legitimate conservative policy aims as threats to democracy.
“It’s still a good working relationship,” said Steve Simon, Minnesota’s Democratic secretary of state. “But I would say it is fraught with the realities of what’s going on outside of us.”
Secretaries of state, who are elected on party tickets in most of the country, have never been immune to partisan politics. Still, “as we were approaching Election Day” in 2020, said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democratic secretary of state of New Mexico who at the time was the chairwoman of the national association, “we still felt very much on the same page.”
But as Mr. Trump’s election claims persisted, fissures began to appear. Democrats were dismayed to see Mr. Warner and Jay Ashcroft, the Republican secretary of state of Missouri, speak at Stop the Steal rallies at their respective state capitols in late 2020.
At a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in August 2021, in response to a wave of highly partisan reviews billed as “audits” of the 2020 election results, a group of four Republican and four Democratic secretaries of state drew up a resolution setting clear standards for audits. The measure passed unanimously with the exceptions of Mr. Warner, who voted against it, and Mr. Ashcroft, who abstained, and shortly after that left the association entirely in protest of the measure, which he argues violated the group’s bylaws.
Neither Mr. Warner nor Mr. Ashcroft directly claims that the election was stolen. Both have instead maintained that a significant number of ballots were cast “outside of the law” in key states on account of expansions in remote voting made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that these issues have yet to be sufficiently settled in court.
Although many legal challenges to the election were rejected by judges on the merits, others were dismissed on technical grounds. One postelection challenge, to the use of drop boxes for voting in Wisconsin, won in the state’s Supreme Court this year.
Some Republican secretaries who stood by the outcome of the 2020 election have nevertheless given credence to lesser claims, directly or indirectly. Frank LaRose, the Republican secretary of state of Ohio, has publicly rebuked conspiracy theorists’ claims about the election in Ohio, but also raised questions about “things that happened in other states” in interviews. “Could it have changed the electoral count?” he said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch in April. “Who knows.”
In December, Louisiana’s Voting Systems Commission, a panel led by the Republican secretary of state Kyle Ardoin, invited Phil Waldron, a prominent election conspiracy theorist, to testify at a hearing. In January, Mr. Ardoin announced that Louisiana would no longer participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a cross-state information-sharing platform used to maintain voter rolls, which had lately become the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories.
This has angered some Democratic secretaries of state, who note that election officials and often secretaries of state themselves have faced personal threats as a result of the conspiracy theories that their Republican counterparts have been reluctant to check.
In October, a Nebraska man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for making threats against Jena Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state in Colorado, on social media.
But some Democratic secretaries of state said they were sympathetic to the increasingly difficult position that colleagues like Mr. LaRose and Mr. Ardoin are in. Since last year, a grass-roots movement driven by right-wing conspiracy theories has put pressure on election officials, even those in deeply red states, to respond to convoluted claims of malfeasance.
Mr. Adams of Kentucky and John Merrill, the Republican secretary of state of Alabama, have both been vilified by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow chief executive and influential election denier, over bogus claims of fraudulent votes in their states, both of which Mr. Trump won easily in 2020.
In solidly Republican Montana, the state’s Republican secretary of state has had to fend off efforts to gain access to voting machines in several counties by activists and Republican state legislators who had attended an August 2021 conference hosted by Mr. Lindell.
As recently as that August, “we didn’t really see election denialism happening in all 50 states,” Mr. Adams said, noting that it was limited to battlegrounds. Now, he said, “it’s gone everywhere.”
Republican secretaries were also rattled this spring when Republican incumbents in South Dakota and Indiana lost primary elections to candidates who refuse to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory in the last election. Running to replace Barbara Cegavske, the term-limited Republican secretary of state of Nevada, is Jim Marchant, a member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a Trump-loyalist group funded by prominent election deniers. He is leading in the polls.
Mr. Adams, who ran for office in 2019 on Republican priorities like strict voter I.D. laws and regular clearance of voter rolls, has found that his record on these issues counts for little with many in the crowds he now encounters at Republican events in his state, he said.
“How do you reason with someone that really thinks that Venezuelan socialists are hacking into paper ballot counters that don’t have a modem?” said Mr. Adams, who is seeking re-election next year. “All I can do is just say all day, every day, that it’s not true. And just hope that I’ll survive.”
Several secretaries of state said that, as the prospect of an election denier bloc emerging among their ranks drew closer to reality, it had drawn Democrats and Republicans closer together as they openly wondered what would become of their once-convivial interactions.
“It may be very challenging to have some of these same conversations or bipartisan happy hours with people who are spewing nonsense about us or demonizing those of us who are not in their party,” said Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state.
A preview of sorts was offered this July in Baton Rouge at the annual conference for the National Association of Secretaries of State. During a meeting there with federal cybersecurity officials, Cord Byrd, Florida’s newly appointed Republican secretary of state, launched into a speech condemning electronic voting, according to several people in attendance. (A spokesman for Mr. Byrd said this account was “unequivocally false.”)
But the secretaries also took heart when Mr. Merrill, a generally Trump-friendly Republican, offered his own experience as an election observer in Russia as testimony that paper ballots were just as manipulable as electronic voting.
Mr. Merrill is term-limited, and will be leaving his post this year. A spokeswoman for Wes Allen, the Republican running to replace him, said that Mr. Allen believed the 2020 election was “conducted in a safe and secure manner” in Alabama. Asked who Mr. Allen believed had won the 2020 election nationwide, she declined to answer.
Nov. 4, 2022, 3:00 a.m. ET
Nov. 4, 2022, 3:00 a.m. ET
In the first major election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the debate over abortion rights has not emerged as a political silver bullet for Democrats, who have largely abandoned hopes that a surge of voter outrage over the decision alone would lift them over obstacles they face in the midterms.
After spending hundreds of millions of campaign dollars on abortion messages — nearly $415 million on ads alone — Democrats have found the impact to be uneven. While support for abortion access is driving the party’s most loyal voters, it does not appear to be outweighing economic concerns for pivotal swing voters.
Strategists and pollsters say voters remain uncertain about the tangle of state laws that have replaced federal protections and about candidates’ positions — one sign that Republicans, who were caught flat-footed by the victory they spent decades working to achieve, may have successfully muddied the waters about their positions.
“These laws can be complicated and convoluted,” Sarah Godlewski, state treasurer of Wisconsin, a Democrat who started a PAC to support state candidates who support abortion rights and flip control of the State Legislature. “It is patchworked across the entire country, it is very confusing.”
Public opinion on the issue hasn’t changed. If anything, voters are more supportive of Roe than they were before it was overturned in a landmark ruling that eliminated a federal right to an abortion. A majority of Americans still support legal abortion, at least through the first trimester of pregnancy. But those views vary by state, with voters in many conservative places where the procedure has been restricted more likely to say abortion should be mostly or fully illegal.
Many Democrats remain optimistic that voters will support abortion rights when the issue is put before them on a referendum. For months, they have been optimistic about Michigan, where many believed a measure to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights would drive voters to the polls and help lift Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, to re-election.
But privately some Michigan Democrats have begun to worry that voters’ increasing focus on the economy could jeopardize Ms. Whitmer, whose polling lead has shrunk in recent weeks, as well as the ballot measure.
In bluer states where abortion remains a protected right, issues like gasoline prices, inflation and crime have already emerged as more forceful motivators. In places like New York, Nevada and New Mexico, where state law protects abortion, Democratic candidates for governor have tried to draw a contrast with their opponents. The Republicans have urged voters to all but ignore the issue, saying they have no plans to change current law.
“There’s no place in the country where abortion’s not on the ballot,” said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. But, she acknowledged it’s not having the same impact everywhere. “In a state like Connecticut, where there may not be anything driving a contrast, issues around inflation could be more impactful because it may not feel as visceral.”
Democrats acknowledge the issue has gradually faded. Representative Abigail Spanberger, who is seeking re-election in one of the country’s most competitive districts, says her opponent’s abortion views have given the issue additional traction in her central Virginia district. Her first advertisement of the campaign season featured an attack on her Republican opponent, Yesli Vega, as “too extreme for Virginia,” citing Ms. Vega’s support for bans.
But as the surprise of the decision has faded, abortion rights has become a steady backdrop to her race — often listed as a reason voters plan to support her.
“It is a motivating factor but there isn’t the ‘oh my gosh, can you believe this has happened?’” she said. “Because that happened a few months ago.”
Since the court’s decision in June, more than a dozen states have banned abortion from conception, allowing few exceptions. But lawsuits have paused many of those bans while court cases proceed. Other states have multiple bans in place, leading to confusion.
The flurry of action has disoriented voters, making it difficult for Democrats to build a sense of urgency.
In Wisconsin, for example, abortion became illegal after Roe was overturned, with a law that dates to 1849. But the Republican running for governor has suggested he will not support enforcement of the near-total ban. Democratic district attorneys in the state’s two largest counties have said they won’t enforce the ban and Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who is running for re-election, has called for a constitutional amendment to repeal the ban, but has been blocked by the Republican State Legislature.
Ms. Godlewski says voters she talks with are often “shocked” to learn that abortion is illegal in their state.
“They assume we are like Minnesota or Illinois, where access is still available,” she said.
Republican voters who might oppose their party on abortion are not so easy for Democrats to flip on the issue alone. In Tucson, Susan Elliot, a Republican who broadly supports abortion rights, plans to vote for Republicans straight down the ticket. Her concerns about the economy and inflation outweighed her support for abortion rights.
“The ‘great resignation’ and inflation and crazy prices are something that is harming me daily,” Ms. Elliot, 54, said. “And whether abortion is legal or not, or whatever weeks they want to do, doesn’t make any difference in my life.”
For Republicans, the political dynamics have shifted, too. A party that spent decades on a unifying message of overturning Roe failed to settle, post-Roe, on a central message, dividing strategists, party leaders and activists. Anti-abortion groups tried to rally Senate candidates with a proposal to ban abortion at 15 weeks nationwide, while other candidates waffled and tried to avoid the issue altogether.
Republicans spent $11 million on television ads focused on abortion, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm.
John Helmberger, who leads the Minnesota Family Council, which opposes abortion, acknowledged that the top priorities for voters were “rising crime and falling economic prospects,” with “abortion a distant third.”
But he also sees new energy from abortion opponents, who were outraged when a Minnesota judge ruled recently that many state abortion restrictions were unconstitutional, and wanted the overturning of Roe to advance their cause in their state.
“They know the fight isn’t over,” he said.
Existing at the intersection of health care, faith and law, abortion politics typically plays out over decades, not just one campaign cycle. Republicans spent years working to elect senators and a president to ultimately change the makeup of the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe.
Abortion rights are directly on the ballot in several states, where voters will decide on measures to amend their state constitutions. California, Michigan and Vermont will ask voters whether to affirm the right to abortion in their state constitutions, and Kentucky will ask voters whether to reject it.
Perhaps the biggest test of the power of abortion to energize voters is occurring in Michigan.
Abortion opponents there say the amendment has motivated their side. They’ve poured money into digital and television advertising, mailers and canvassing operations that paint the amendment as an “extreme” provision that would allow abortion throughout pregnancy. If approved, the measure would establish an individual right to “reproductive freedom” and allow the state to regulate the procedure after fetal viability but not prohibit it under certain conditions.
Activists are watching the outcome of less prominent elections that could have long-term consequences for abortion in different states.
In North Carolina, Republicans need a net pickup of five seats in the General Assembly to reach a supermajority, which could override a veto of an anti-abortion bill from the Democratic governor. In the Wisconsin Legislature, they need six. In Pennsylvania, if the incoming Legislature approves it, a legislatively referred ballot initiative to amend the state constitution could soon reach voters for final approval.
In Minnesota, a state that is an island of abortion access in the region, Democrats and Republicans are fighting for control of about 20 seats to determine party control of the Legislature.
Elsewhere, attorney general races could determine how now-contested state abortion bans might be enforced. In Arizona, where abortion is banned after 15 weeks, the Republican attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh has indicated he would uphold a near-total abortion ban dating to 1864 that has no exceptions for rape or incest. Kris Mayes, the Democrat, has said she “will not prosecute any doctor, any pharmacist, any nurse, for abortion,” even if anti-abortion laws are in place.
State supreme court justices are elected positions in some states, making races even more significant now that abortion law is determined at a state level. Partisan control of supreme courts is up for grabs in Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan.
“Everything is going to be close,” said Ianthe Metzger, director of state advocacy communications for Planned Parenthood. “A lot is at stake.”
Still, the extraordinary policy landscape has turned the theoretical into real political choices, prompting some voters to reassess their priorities.
In Western Michigan, Amanda Stratton, 37, had long considered herself a “pro-life” voter. But this November, Ms. Stratton, a stay-at-home mother, voted for Democrats. Five difficult miscarriages changed her beliefs, she said, and now the debate felt urgent.
“I just thought it was kind of locked in there, and it was just something that we wouldn’t have to worry about,” said Ms. Stratton, recalling her shock when Roe fell. “I want people in power who are making these decisions to be pro-choice and help to restore that here in Michigan and hopefully across the country.”
Kristen Bayrakdarian contributed reporting.
Nov. 3, 2022, 11:03 p.m. ET
Nov. 3, 2022, 11:03 p.m. ET
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Donald J. Trump wants to be the future of the Republican Party, but it was the prolonged past that took center stage Thursday night as the former president opened a swing of four rallies in the final five days of the midterm elections.
The most remarkable moment of his hourlong speech unfolded when Mr. Trump was joined on the Sioux Gateway Airport tarmac by Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican seeking an eighth consecutive six-year term, to criticize President Biden and make a plea to vote against Democrats who control Congress.
It was a peculiar message from a 76-year-old former president — teamed up with an 89-year-old senator — to roast the 79-year-old Democrat in the White House.
Mr. Grassley blamed Mr. Biden for dividing the country. Mr. Trump, who earlier had faulted his successor for high inflation, marveled at the energy from Mr. Grassley, who wore a green John Deere hat for the event.
“You’re unbelievable,” Mr. Trump told the senator. “I’m looking at him in that beautiful green hat — he looks like he’s like 40 years old.”
Mr. Trump’s stop in Iowa highlighted both the power and the limitations of his political brand as he inches closer to announcing a third presidential campaign.
Even though he’s not on the ballot this year and his stump speech is spent mostly rehashing old grievances and policies, Mr. Trump still drew thousands on a night when temperatures dipped below 40 degrees.
But the fact that he was campaigning in this remote stretch of a state that remains far down the list of midterm battlegrounds was a reflection of Mr. Trump’s political baggage.
In the five states with tossup Senate races, according to Cook Political Report, Mr. Trump has not held rallies in two — Georgia or Wisconsin — since the primary season ended. He’ll visit just one of those tossup states, Pennsylvania, in his final four rallies. He’s scheduled to campaign in Florida and Ohio this weekend.
Still, Mr. Trump is preparing his supporters for a third consecutive presidential bid.
Wearing black gloves and a matching overcoat, Mr. Trump spoke at length about the possibility of his own potential campaign before bringing to the stage Mr. Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds, the two candidates he was in the state to promote.
“In order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again,” he said of another presidential bid. “Very, very, very, probably.”
The crowd erupted in applause and chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
“Get ready — that’s all I’m telling you,” Mr. Trump said. “Very soon.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — President Biden sought to persuade Americans on Thursday that the economy is doing better on his watch than many believe and warned that Republicans would make it harder for the middle class to afford education, health care and other necessities if they win Congress next week.
“The economy is up, price inflation is down, real incomes are up, gas prices are down and need to come down further,” Mr. Biden told a rally of supporters in New Mexico as he stumped for Democrats running for governor and Congress. “The American people are beginning to see the benefits of an economy that works for them,” he added, while conceding that “a lot of Americans are still in trouble.”
In a speech heavy on statistics, the president rattled off a series of indicators meant to bolster his argument, citing near-record-low unemployment, a burst of new manufacturing jobs, expanded access to health care, export growth, reduced federal deficits and rising gross national product. He pointed to policies he has championed to forgive student loan debt, curb the cost of prescription drugs for retirees and force large corporations that have paid little or no taxes to pay at least 15 percent.
“How many of you have any student debt?” he asked the crowd gathered at the Ted M. Gallegos Community Center. “Say goodbye! Say goodbye!”
Mr. Biden’s stop in New Mexico opened a five-day swing that will also take him to California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Maryland by Election Day, mostly to blue states where a Democratic president with mediocre approval ratings is still welcome.
Some of his economic claims were incomplete or misleading — gasoline prices, for instance, have come down since peaking last summer but remain significantly higher than when Mr. Biden took office. Yet the president’s biggest challenge in the few days remaining before Tuesday is changing the minds of enough Americans who do not see the economy in such robust terms. While jobs are plentiful, inflation hit a 40-year-high this year, eating away at many household budgets and souring the public mood.
In a recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College, 47 percent identified economic issues as the most important factors in deciding their votes and a new survey by CNN indicated that three-quarters of Americans believe the economy is in recession even though it grew at an annualized rate of 2.6 percent last quarter.
In a nod to public pessimism, Mr. Biden sought to make the case that it could be much worse if Republicans win next week and manage to reverse his policies, noting that they are already in court trying to invalidate his student loan forgiveness and have floated reductions in Social Security and Medicare.
He mocked Republicans who were “whining” about the minimum corporate tax rate he signed into law and want to eliminate it to cut taxes for the wealthy. And he said they would reverse his new law capping the cost of medicines like insulin.
“It’s reckless and irresponsible,” he said. “It would make inflation considerably worse” and “badly hurt working-class and middle-class Americans.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz is closing with “compassion” and opposition to “extremism.” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman comes bearing a message of “love”— and a sharp warning about the “lies” of Dr. Oz, his Republican opponent.
In Pennsylvania’s closely watched and often nasty Senate race, the rival candidates are making their final pitches to voters who have been bombarded with a record-shattering flood of negative advertising.
And for all of their disagreements, both have settled on a variant of the same theme: Politicians can’t be trusted, and I’m not a politician.
“What’s missing from politics these days is compassion,” Dr. Oz says in his final face-to-camera commercial. “That’s why I’ll cut taxes to help families struggling with inflation, strengthen Social Security and help those suffering.”
He adds: “Politicians point fingers. Doctors solve problems. Together, we’ll stand up to extremism on both sides, and bring balance to Washington.”
Another Oz commercial in heavy rotation, called “Bring America Back,” echoes the themes Republican groups have used to pummel Mr. Fetterman, a Democrat, with attack ads accusing him of being soft on crime and “too far left” for Pennsylvania.
“Today’s kids aren’t safe in our communities,” Dr. Oz says. “Inflation is making it harder to buy a house to start a family.”
Altogether, there are 47 television ads in rotation this week in Pennsylvania’s Senate race alone, according to AdImpact. Since Labor Day, the two sides have dumped nearly $160 million worth of television and digital ads in the state through various committees and groups.
Mr. Fetterman is running a scattershot flurry of ads all over the state. One soft-focus ad that is serving as something of a closing argument, called “Matters,” mentions the stroke Mr. Fetterman had just days before winning the Democratic primary in May to underscore his support for families. His doctor recently issued a note saying that despite Mr. Fetterman’s ongoing difficulty with auditory processing, he was fit to serve.
“Politicians spend so much time fighting about the things that don’t matter,” Mr. Fetterman says in the ad. “I’ll always be focused on what does access to health care, lower costs, good jobs, more time with those we love.”
Other Fetterman commercials, like one featuring a county sheriff and another including his Trump-voting parents, appear intended to fend off Republican attacks on the lieutenant governor’s record on crime and highlight his Pennsylvania roots. After being on defense for weeks over supporting clemency for those convicted of murder, the Fetterman campaign released an ad on Thursday featuring two brothers he worked to have released after decades in prison.
Negative ads from outside allies of Mr. Fetterman depict Dr. Oz as a calculating con man, highlighting critical reporting on his record as a doctor and warning voters not to trust him.
Fetterman ads running in more rural areas tend to strike Trumpian notes, with nods to “forgotten” communities and families struggling with “the cost of gas, groceries, child care.”
In one such commercial focused on inflation, Mr. Fetterman says, “The politicians don’t feel it and they don’t fix it. They just keep talking.”
Polls taken since the lone debate between the two candidates suggest that the race has tightened after a performance during which Mr. Fetterman often struggled with his words. His team has tried to show that he is campaigning vigorously in the race’s final days.
“The Best Choice,” an ad running in six media markets across the state, doubles as an attack against Dr. Oz.
“I only got into politics to make my town a safer place,” Mr. Fetterman begins. “Oz only moved here to run for office to use us. I’ve spent my career fighting for people. Oz has spent his life taking advantage of people, making himself rich.”
“He lies for your vote,” Mr. Fetterman concludes. “I’ll never break your trust.”
When Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor, and again, after she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination in February, she did not let the moments pass without noting their historical significance.
Yet in the months since, as Ms. Hochul has campaigned to become the first woman to be elected to the governor’s mansion in Albany, her emphasis on the barriers she had busted has largely receded.
But with the race tightening against her Republican opponent, Representative Lee Zeldin, Ms. Hochul brought that message back to the forefront on Thursday, when she took the stage alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton at a women’s get-out-the-vote event at Barnard College, a private women’s college in Manhattan.
After being introduced by Mrs. Clinton, who trumpeted the governor’s position in history, Ms. Hochul said she was counting the days until she might “make history once again.”
“To all of you,” Ms. Hochul added later, “but particularly to the women of New York: This is our moment.”
Both Ms. Harris and Mrs. Clinton framed Ms. Hochul’s election as a crucial moment for women’s rights, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion and Republican efforts to limit the procedure.
Some Republicans want a national ban on abortion, Ms. Harris said. “We’re going to need people in the statehouse, at a local level, who have the courage to stand up and push back.”
Thursday’s rally is part of a larger push that Ms. Hochul’s campaign is making to draw Democratic voters to the ballot box and help the governor fend off Mr. Zeldin.
Though recent major polls have shown Ms. Hochul in the lead, what was initially a large margin has appeared to shrink as Election Day has neared. Republicans have become energized about the possibility of taking the governor’s seat in liberal New York, and Mr. Zeldin has benefited from a large outside spending campaign from ultrawealthy conservative donors.
As Ms. Hochul’s campaign has entered its final sprint, organizers have focused heavily on energizing Democrats’ traditional base of Black and Latino voters through ads and rallies, particularly in New York City. Democratic strategists believe that if Ms. Hochul can rack up enough votes there, she can counter any gains that Mr. Zeldin may make in suburban and upstate areas where Republicans are typically more competitive.
The event on Thursday marks Ms. Hochul’s most significant effort yet to boost turnout from women.
When she took office, replacing former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after his resignation, she spoke openly about hoping her milestone might inspire women to be ambitious or to follow her into politics. She highlighted being a historic first, even standing symbolically under a glass ceiling after winning her primary election.
During that campaign, Ms. Hochul occasionally related her identity to the issues. In particular, after a draft of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision was leaked, Ms. Hochul said the issue was not just a political one. “As a woman,” she said in May, “this is personal.”
Christine C. Quinn, a Democrat who in 2013 ran unsuccessfully to be New York’s first female and openly gay mayor, said that she believed it was important to make that connection.
Her failure to highlight her own identity, she added, was a major campaign error.
“I downplayed the historic nature of my campaign, and it was a mistake,” Ms. Quinn said. She added: “If you don’t promote who you are, you do come off as lacking authenticity.”
But as Ms. Hochul entered her general election contest against Mr. Zeldin, she mentioned her gender less frequently. Even as abortion access became the chief focus of her campaign over the summer, Ms. Hochul spoke less often of her own relationship to it and did not mention it in her television ads.
The event on Thursday seemed like a strategic counterattack, featuring other women who had achieved firsts. The vice president was the first woman and woman of color to hold that office; Mrs. Clinton was the first female senator from New York and the first woman to be a major party’s presidential nominee; and Letitia James, who is running for re-election, was the first woman to be elected as New York’s attorney general and the first Black person to hold that office.
Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College, said that the governor was most likely right to focus on the issues. Voters often dismissed identity-based appeals as being irrelevant in the face of more pressing concerns, she said.
“For the candidate to be touting their ‘firstness,’ if you will, is seldom a winning strategy,” Professor Zaino said.
Democrats nationwide have hoped that women alarmed by the Supreme Court’s decision and moves by Republican-led states to limit access to abortion would be energized to vote for them. A number of polls in the state governor’s race have shown Ms. Hochul with a significant lead among women.
But national polls looking at the contest for control of Congress have found women to be shifting their support from Democrats to Republicans, particularly as crime and the economy have become more significant issues for voters.
A New York Times poll released last month found a major shift among women who identified as independent voters, and a Wall Street Journal poll released on Thursday found a similar shift among white suburban woman. Mr. Zeldin has aggressively courted both groups, largely focusing on public safety and inflation.
Ms. Hochul has in turn shifted her message. She has spent recent weeks highlighting her efforts to crack down on illegal guns and pass gun-control laws as a way to rebut Mr. Zeldin’s claims that she is not tough enough on crime.
But she has not left the abortion issue entirely behind. It was one of Ms. Hochul’s pitches to voters during her debate against Mr. Zeldin last month, and it was a major focus of speakers at Thursday’s rally, even as they discussed other issues.
Mr. Zeldin and national Republicans “want to turn back the clock on abortion,” Mrs. Clinton said. “They spent 50 years trying to make that happen. But they want to turn back the clock on women’s rights in general.”
Kathleen Daniel, 50, a city worker, said Ms. Hochul’s message on abortion hadn’t resonated much with her earlier in the election, because she felt her reproductive rights were safe as a resident of New York.
But if Mr. Zeldin is elected, Ms. Daniel said she wouldn’t feel as secure.
“It spits in the face of women that Zeldin got this close,” Ms. Daniel said. “It’s a wake-up call that the things we hold dear can disappear.”
Ruth Igielnik and Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.
Nov. 3, 2022, 12:53 p.m. ET
Nov. 3, 2022, 12:53 p.m. ET
Debra Kowalski, a 49-year-old nurse in Bucks County, Pa., has been pleading with her elderly parents to move out of Philadelphia, especially after a delivery driver was shot and killed last month a few blocks from their home.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., Michael Navas, a landscape contractor, says he believes “third-class” people are destroying the city with graffiti and burglaries, a phenomenon that feels more acute than ever.
And in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Deb Whittenberger, 66, already knows what she wants for Christmas this year: a Ring doorbell camera, which she hopes will assuage her gnawing fears of break-ins in her suburban town near Milwaukee.
Her main motivating issues in this year’s election, she said, are “crime, security, safety.”
Though polls show that voters’ biggest concerns are about the economy and inflation, many Americans — especially more conservative voters like these, but also moderates and liberals — say they are gripped by worries over crime and disorder. Even though national crime trends are mixed, these voters have seen reports of homicide spikes in places like Memphis, Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Jacksonville, Fla., and have heard from friends and neighbors who have been victims of car thefts or muggings.
In many cases, their anxieties stem not from experiencing serious crime, but from seeing homeless encampments, or finding a syringe or human waste on the sidewalk, or reading accounts in their neighborhood social networks of vandalism on a local bike path.
These concerns are generally benefiting Republican candidates, who have bluntly blamed Democratic elected officials for a surge in violent crime in many cities that began during the pandemic and has yet to fully subside. Conservative news outlets like Fox have also focused heavily on crime, as has local TV news. In interviews, voters criticized liberals’ efforts to eliminate cash bail, decriminalize marijuana and decrease funding for police departments, even if those policies have not been put in place where they live.
Many independent voters have warmed to Republican candidates across the country who are emphasizing crime and public safety in their closing messages before Election Day. Republican plans to curb crime generally consist of hiring more police officers and tightening border security, but most of the party’s candidates focus far more on assailing progressive criminal justice policies or the “defund the police” movement, which most Democratic candidates have rejected.
At a rally on Tuesday evening for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, speakers at a fire station in Bensalem Township, just over the county line from Philadelphia, half-joked that they should build a “border wall” to keep out crime.
Dr. Oz spoke very little about his own crime-fighting proposals — increasing penalties for certain offenses and offering incentives for police recruitment, among other things — and concentrated instead on arguing that Democrats wanted to “release people convicted of murder” and were not properly supporting police officers.
“Let police do their jobs,” he said. “We don’t want to be part of a social experiment.”
While the perception of a crime wave is broadly shared, the reality this year is especially hard to pin down.
Because of a change in the way the Federal Bureau of Investigation is compiling and tracking national crime statistics, more than a third of the nation’s law enforcement agencies, including those in some of the biggest U.S. cities, did not submit crime data to the F.B.I.’s statistics collection program for 2021.
As a result, said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, “the most basic question we can ask about crime — is it going up or down — can’t be answered with the F.B.I. data.”
After a jarring spike in homicides and gun assaults in cities and towns across the country over the first two years of the pandemic, the number of those crimes seems to have started declining this year, Prof. Rosenfeld said. On the other hand, he said, the number of property crimes like robbery and larceny, which had been falling for years and then plummeted during the pandemic, has been rising again.
Criminology experts pointed out that in most parts of the country, crime rates were still substantially below the levels of the early 1990s despite the recent increases, a dynamic that is reflected by the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey.
Across the country, gun violence is heavily concentrated in certain economically struggling neighborhoods. And even in cities with serious gun violence problems, most residents are not living in the communities where that violence is a daily reality. In those places, crime has been an urgent matter for years.
“We already know that,” said Jonathan Wilson, a gun violence researcher in Philadelphia who uses a wheelchair after having been shot in a barbershop in 2011.
Democratic officials and candidates have vowed to address crime with strategies like larger budgets for police departments, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot has done in Chicago, while supporting small-scale violence prevention groups. They have also pleaded for gun control measures at the state and federal level that they say would produce a drop in gun violence.
Plans laid out by House and Senate Republicans would provide grants for local and state police departments to hire more officers, or offer recruiting and retention bonuses for 200,000 of them. They have also discussed withholding federal money from cities that “defund the police” (none have), and have circulated proposals to “crack down” on prosecutors whom lawmakers deem to be too lenient.
Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives moved last month to impeach Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner, charging that he had been “derelict in his obligations” to prosecute crimes in the city struggling with gun violence. But Mr. Wilson rejected the notion that there was any connection between Democratic leadership and high rates of violent crime, pointing out that gun violence was a problem in places governed by Republicans, too.
Year after year, large percentages of Americans have told pollsters they think crime is getting worse, no matter what the underlying numbers say. Now, growing numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents are all saying that crime is getting worse in their own communities.
Republicans express the most alarm, but 51 percent of independent voters said there was more crime in their areas now than there was a year ago, according to a Gallup survey. As for the country as a whole, some 95 percent of Republicans think crime is worse now than a year ago, a view shared by 61 percent of Democrats.
And even if most Americans are insulated from the frequent shootings and robberies that plague many poor urban neighborhoods, they now say they feel more personally vulnerable to getting murdered, mugged, burglarized or sexually assaulted. The share of people who said they were worried about a child being harmed at school soared 13 percentage points from a year ago, probably reflecting the anxious ripples of the Uvalde elementary school massacre and other school shootings.
Ms. Whittenberger, a self-employed crafter who sells handmade aprons, said she worries about shootings in nearby Milwaukee — “every night, another killing,” she said. But in her daily routines, she is also noting small changes, both close to home and far from Menomonee Falls, that suggest to her that American life is fraying.
When she shops at her local grocery store, Ms. Whittenberger said, she can smell marijuana on the clothes of fellow customers as she passes them in the aisles. And reports of thefts in California cities, which she sees reported on Fox News, drive her mad with fear and rage.
“Is any place in this country safe?” she said. “I don’t think so.”
Crime has become a dominant issue in the New York governor’s race, a shift in focus that has helped make an election that Democrats took for granted — it’s been two decades since the state last elected a Republican governor — into an increasingly competitive race.
The Republican candidate, Representative Lee Zeldin, has focused his campaign for months on a rise in crime in New York City in particular. He has attacked the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, for not going far enough in tightening state laws that limit the use of bail to serious offenses, and has vowed to immediately fire the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who was elected in 2021 after promising to stop prosecuting low-level crimes.
Tony Smith, who lives in Mount Kisco, a suburb north of New York City, said that he believed Ms. Hochul and Mr. Bragg were too lenient on criminals. He feels particularly uneasy on the New York City subway, which he sometimes rides to get to New York Mets home games in Queens.
“I’m a big guy,” Mr. Smith said. “I can fend for myself. But you know what? I’m looking both ways now.”
Across the country in Arizona, Dave Abramovitz, 55, did not vote for former President Donald J. Trump, but he is now enthusiastically supporting Kari Lake, Arizona’s Republican candidate for governor, who has put crime and safety concerns at the heart of her campaign as she appeals to suburbanites in places like Scottsdale. She has promised to “blow up” smuggling tunnels under the southwest border to stop the flow of illicit drugs from Mexico, and to authorize Arizona National Guard troops to detain migrants.
“Her first order of business is to declare a state of emergency at the border,” Mr. Abramovitz said. “Our federal government knows and doesn’t do anything.”
In mailers, television ads and debates, Ms. Lake and other Republican candidates in Arizona blame Democrats for record numbers of illegal border crossings, which they say have unleashed a host of public-safety threats across Arizona, from fentanyl smuggling to human trafficking to cartel violence.
Migration experts have said that undocumented migrants are less likely than American citizens to commit crimes, and that much of the fentanyl flowing into the country is being smuggled through legal ports of entry, by American citizens.
Not mentioned in these attacks is the fact that Republicans have controlled both the governorship and the legislature in Arizona for the past 12 years.
Ms. Lake often accuses Democratic-run cities like Phoenix or Tucson of failing to support the police and of coddling criminals. But her attacks are less about data than about stoking voters’ feelings of unease. As Ms. Lake made a lunchtime appearance at an open-air pub in Scottsdale, several supporters said they felt less safe in downtown Phoenix, or when getting gas after dark, than they did before the pandemic.
Isaac Glover, an 18-year-old planning to cast his first vote for conservatives up and down the ballot in Arizona, said he had been so rattled by a shooting and carjacking near the Taco Bell where he works that he decided to start saving up for a bulletproof vest.
“You can get shot at any point in time,” he said. “We weren’t having this kind of crime in 2019.”
Arizona’s crime rates, which historically have been higher than the national average, did rise during the pandemic, and Phoenix has had a troubling spike in homicides this year. But other crimes, including rape, robbery, burglary and theft, are actually almost unchanged or down from their prepandemic levels, according to Phoenix police data.
While violent crime in most places is far below its historical peak, there are cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee where homicides have recently set records. The trend has meant that these cities and their suburbs, which are already playing a critical role in races for the U.S. Senate and control of Congress, have figured prominently in campaign rhetoric.
In downtown Waukesha, Wis., on Tuesday, Dan Mulder, 72, said he planned to vote Republican in the state’s hotly contested races for governor and senator. He cited the violent rampage last year at the town’s Christmas parade — a man drove his S.U.V. through the crowd at high speed, killing six people and injuring dozens — as an example of what has given the Republicans’ anti-crime messages particular resonance.
“It’s made it more personal and more direct,” he said. “I think to have something that horrific happen, it’s going to stick with people for a while.”
Michael Gold, Brittany Kriegstein and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.