There is growing concern among Democrats across the country that outrage over abortion losses in more than a dozen states won’t be enough to propel their candidates to the finish line in purple states like Michigan. Although liquidation roe deer unleashed a wave of energy on the left earlier this summer, carrying abortion rights measures and those who back them to victory in some primaries, high inflation and other cost-of-living issues have eroded voter enthusiasm for Democratic candidates.

Whitmer now leads GOP challenger Tudor Dixon by 5 points, up from 12 a month ago. according to 538. Her race is narrowing even as polls show strong support for a measure enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution, with which she has closely associated her campaign.

Less than two weeks before election day, she along with Attorney General Dana Nessel and other Democrats on the ballot in the swing state, warn that workers will flee unless an amendment passes law and the state’s 1931 anti-abortion law goes into effect, making it harder to do business — especially in tech , healthcare and services — for recruitment and retention of employees.

“I hear all the time from businesses that they are feeling the brunt of the ‘transition’, which is women leaving the workplace during Covid,” she said. “If we want women back in the workplace in Michigan, it’s best not to deny them the right to be full citizens and make decisions about their health care. That’s what’s at stake.”

Other Democrats across the country are promoting a similar message — using the final days of their campaigns to argue that abortion and financial problems are inextricably linked.

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said in a recent interview that protecting abortion rights helps people make economic choices about their family size amid rising inflation. California Governor Gavin Newsom bought billboards this year, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas are trying to encourage workers to come to his abortion-rights “sanctuary” state.

But candidates in Michigan are testing a broader message aimed at employers and where they can best recruit and invest.

“All you have to do is talk to any business owner in the state and they’ll tell you they don’t have enough people working for them. Everybody is desperate,” Rep. Alyssa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is fighting hard to keep her district, told POLITICO. “So we’re going to be an open country that believes in equality and rights? Or will we be a backward state? Business does not like backward countries. It doesn’t help them attract young people. It doesn’t encourage kids who go to U of M for four years to stay in the state when they graduate.”

The Whitmer administration points to data they’ve collected showing that a lack of affordable childcare is a major reason why women find it difficult to return to the workforce — especially during a pandemic. Susan Corbin, who heads the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, added that protecting abortion rights would help stop the “brain drain” that has long plagued the state — graduates of Michigan’s top colleges leaving for other countries in search of better prospects. It’s a message Whitmer has been pushing since at least this spring, when POLITICO obtained a draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court is poised to overturn roe deerand one she emphasized in interviews, speeches and forums with business leaders.

But Whitmer’s Republican challenger, Dixon, who has expressed support for abortion restrictions and criticized the governor for Michigan’s economic struggles, dismisses the arguments as frivolous.

“I think we can work on childcare. We can work on family vacation. We can work to make adoption less expensive — that will also bring people into the state,” she told POLITICO. “But we can’t plan our economic development based on abortion — we have to have a more robust plan.”

Dixon worked to distance herself from the unpopularity of the state’s 1931 abortion law, arguing that voters could support both her and a state referendum that would protect reproductive freedom. Polls show that many voters may do just that.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups, which have invested heavily in Dixon’s election and deny the abortion-rights vote, predict that the Democrats’ tough economic pitches will hurt voters and swing the results in their favor.

“It seems very heartless,” said Kristen Paula, a spokeswoman for Citizens for Women and Children of Michigan, which is campaigning against the ballot initiative. “These are really difficult situations that no one should have to deal with, and to say that a woman having an abortion is good for business — I don’t like that.”

But for business owners like Chris Andrus, Whitmer’s argument resonates.

Andrus, who founded Mitten Brewing in Grand Rapids in 2012 and oversees the brewery and restaurant at three locations, said his employees, who like the rest of the hospitality industry are mostly young and female, are alarmed by the prospect of the state’s 1931 prohibition. is back in action.

“My coworkers have told me that this will have a big impact on their decisions about where to move and where to start their careers,” he said. “It’s already a tough situation to get young people back to work, but if Michigan becomes like Texas and other states known for limited access to abortion, we’re going to be exporting a lot of young talent, and there’s no getting around it.”

Andrus said most business owners he talks to are reluctant to speak publicly on the issue for fear of alienating conservative customers — especially in his part of the state, where the strong Republican DeVos family has significant influence.

“It’s a bag of lit dynamite that restaurant owners can talk about, but I think it’s very important to recognize that this is an economic crisis in the making, and the consequences will be staggering if and when these rights go away,” he said.

Despite tensions and divisions in the state over the issue, some business and labor groups have joined the fray and publicly warned elected officials that anti-abortion policies could have economic consequences.

“Abortion rights is certainly not a typical chamber of commerce issue,” the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce said earlier this year, “but as Michigan strives to attract skilled talent — especially young people — to meet the demands of our increasingly complex economy, the Detroit urges Michigan lawmakers to consider economic competitiveness issues” as they debate whether to ban the procedure.

In early October, the group – supported Whitmerciting her work to “keep Michigan competitive.”

The United Auto Workers union is arguably the most influential in the state, too urging its members both to re-elect Whitmer and to pass an abortion rights initiative.

“When people can make decisions about their own reproductive health, including whether and when to have children, they have more control over their health and their economic security,” the UAW said.

Other labor groups, including the Michigan American Federation of Teachers and the state’s AFL-CIO chapter, have supported the referendum.

But Michigan’s GOP candidates and anti-abortion groups that support them say they see little evidence that the fate of the state’s abortion law will have a significant impact on the state’s economy.

While companies employing thousands of workers have spoken out against the new restrictions in more than a dozen states, they say those companies have yet to take action.

Titus Faulks, an organizer with Students for Life, which leads groups of student volunteers knocking on doors to reject the referendum, pointed to nearby Indiana, which passed a near-total abortion ban this summer that remains tied up in court. .

“The Chamber of Commerce has come out against it, but no business has yet left the state or announced plans to do so,” Foulkes said. “Companies are willing to use this issue as a bargaining chip, and many are spending money to provide transportation for their employees to [leave the state for an abortion]but that’s all.”

Since the June decision, other states that have banned abortions have not suffered economic consequences, and appeals by other Democratic officials to pro-abortion-rights campaigns have been fell flat. While several major corporations have developed plans to help workers living in states that have banned the procedure travel to a state that has retained access, none has yet announced plans to move or cancel a planned expansion.

Whitmer pointed out August statement Indiana-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly warned that the state’s abortion ban would reduce its “ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world” and said the new law would “force it to plan for more employment growth outside of our home state.”

When asked by POLITICO if Eli Lilly would consider investing in Michigan if the abortion rights referendum passes, the company declined to comment.

Still, Whitmer and other Democrats running for office this year are confident they have a winning message as they try to retain the state’s executive branch and flip the legislature for the first time in decades — with the help of new maps compiled by an independent commission which make many House and Senate districts more competitive.

Betsy Coffia, a former social worker and Democratic House candidate in a northwest district, told POLITICO that she has been highlighting the economic impact of abortion rights on the campaign trail, including at a recent candidate forum hosted by her local chamber of commerce.

Coffia, whose race the state Democratic Party considers a “must-win,” says the “land is for the people” argument, even for those who oppose abortion.

“In my district, which is more rural, it is already difficult to get enough doctors – in particular, obstetrician-gynecologists,” she said. “So it could be a medical and economic disaster if we ban abortion and drive more health workers out of this state. We can really turn into a backwater.”

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