November 8, 2017 / Press Releases

What Northam’s Win In Virginia Means For 2018 Races

To:  Interested Parties

Fr:   NARAL Pro-Choice America

Da:  November 8, 2017

Re:  What Northam’s win in Virginia means for 2018 races


Dr. Ralph Northam’s landslide victory in the Virginia governor’s race is not only a strong rebuke to the Trump/GOP agenda, it’s proof once again that pro-choice candidates can run and win on their support for reproductive freedom. While many issues affected the outcome of the campaign, the candidates’ positions on abortion access was one of the most salient contrasts in the race and drove support to Northam.

Dr. Northam cannily used his long-standing support for reproductive rights to build a durable coalition that delivered him a strong margin in the general and a decisive win in the primary. A similar story played out in Washington State. There, Manka Dhingra, a staunchly pro-choice Democrat, won a nationally watched special election last night that flipped control of the upper chamber.

The lesson for 2018 is clear: in this environment, candidates up and down the ballot can find strong political advantage by embracing reproductive rights.


Northam won a convincing victory in the general election

  • Northam won overall by nearly 9 points
  • Northam won women by 19 points
    • 2 points more than Clinton in 2016; 10 points more than McAuliffe in 2013
  • Democratic voters were enthusiastic and turned out in record-breaking numbers
    • 41% of voters were Democrats in 2017up 1 point from 2016 and 4 points from 2013

This continues a trend from the Democratic primary, which Northam won handily

  • Northam won the primary by 11.8 points
  • Northam leaned on his longstanding support for abortion access in his successful bid for the Democratic nomination
  • Northam’s issue-focused strategy helped him build a durable multi-racial coalition that included white suburban voters and voters with an advanced degree
    • Northam won key groups of voters, including Millennials, Middle Aged, African Americans, White Suburban, Seniors, and ⅔ of voters with advanced degrees

Northam consolidated support with an unapologetic defense of abortion rights

  • Northam spent his career fighting for the rights of women and families, from his first race for the state senate to his campaign for governor.
  • He famously led the fight in 2012 against a deeply unpopular GOP law forcing women to undergo unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds if they wanted an abortion.
  • Northam and the rest of the Democratic slate advocated for reproductive freedom throughout the campaign, making a deliberate choice to focus on women’s rights and abortion access in paid media, online, and during debates.
  • Northam made abortion access a focus of his paid and earned media efforts:


Nationwide, Democratic voters overwhelmingly support abortion access.

  • 84% of Democratic voters oppose limiting abortion access. This support is even more pronounced amongst women, particularly women of color, who have always been core to the Democratic base.
  • Engaging and turning out these base voters will be key in 2018, especially for maximizing down-ballot pick-up opportunities. As last night’s results in Virginia make clear, support for reproductive rights is crucial to earning the support of the party’s base up-and-down the ballot.

Voters as a whole broadly support abortion access.

  • Seven-in-10 Americans support legal access to abortion, and that is true in red, blue, and purple states. Notably, this finding is true regardless of a voter’s personal feelings about whether they would choose abortion themselves.
    • These findings hold across geography, age, and ethnicity.
    • Even the majority of self-identified Independents (66%) and Republicans (53%) support legal access to abortion – and a significant number of those who personally identify as pro-life nonetheless believe that abortion should remain legal and that politicians shouldn’t make these decisions for others.

As we head into 2018 and Democrats endeavor to take back the majority in states across the nation, it is critical for campaigns to heed the lessons from Northam’s victory in Virginia and take advantage of the electoral opportunities that come by supporting reproductive freedom.

NARAL will continue to mobilize pro-choice voters to support candidates who defend our reproductive rights

NARAL endorsed Ralph Northam early in the primary and worked to turn out pro-choice voters throughout the campaign. In total, NARAL knocked more than 42,000 doors, made thousands of phone calls, and repeatedly drew the contrast between Northam’s pro-choice record and his opponent’s dangerous anti-choice agenda.

Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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