Week in politics: The abortion debate could have a heavy sway on midterms
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And we're joined now by NPR political correspondent Juana Summers. Juana, thanks so much for being with us.
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
SIMON: Young voters - young potential voters - have never lived in the U.S. without guaranteed access to abortion. Are there signs political figures are seeing that should Roe v. Wade be overturned, this is going to activate young voters politically?
SUMMERS: Well, Scott, that's the hope of a number of Democratic strategists that I spoke with. They think this is the type of issue that could jolt young voters to action. And we should just point out that we see from polling that young voters - they're among those groups that have soured on Democrats since 2020. When I talk to youth organizers, though, there's kind of a mixed picture. One that I spoke to made the point that while people our age, Gen Zers and millennials, have never lived in a world without the protections of Roe, they've certainly been dealing with a country in which access to abortion is challenging depending on where you live. And this organizer in Colorado that I spoke with - she pointed out to me that while the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down Roe - it's launching young people to action across the country - that action doesn't always equal voting. It could mean things like protesting or having conversations with family members or donating to abortion funds. So it's just not clear what the midterm outlook looks like on this one yet.
SIMON: According to polls, the majority of Americans support keeping Roe in place, but the minority opposed is sizable and motivated. How might such a decision affect possible Republican support?
SUMMERS: Yeah, well, there is certainly a good deal of concern among Republicans over how this will play in big statewide races in places like New Hampshire and Arizona. But there's also some belief that the issue of inflation will remain the top concern among voters headed to the polls. Now, in some places where Republicans have been making gains among socially conservative voters, Democrats may not want to lean in to this issue. And the place that I'm thinking about right now is in South Texas. There's a district there where there's a runoff this month where a Democratic incumbent, Congressman Henry Cuellar, who is staunchly anti-abortion rights, is being challenged by a progressive, Jessica Cisneros, who's really leaned in on this issue. Now, this is a district where there's a good number of socially conservative Latino voters, and Cuellar allies say that the only reason Democrats have been able to keep this seat is because voters there agree with Cuellar's views. And we should note this is also an area where former President Trump increased his support in 2020. So we'll be watching that closely later this month.
SIMON: Of course, the nationwide baby formula shortage is a huge story this week, affecting millions of families in the most immediate and sensitive way. What's the White House saying they're going to do about it?
SUMMERS: This has been a hugely frustrating issue for families across the country. The administration launched a website where parents can get information about how to find formula and also to get advice on what to do if they can't find the brand or variety they use. President Biden this week also met with formula manufacturers and retailers. He has been pushing them to step up production. And he also asked retailers what they need to help them keep their shelves stocked. And one of the things he said they asked for was more flexibility in the WIC program. Now, that's the program for low-income parents and children, and it accounts for just a huge amount of the formula consumed in this country. The Biden administration is urging states to relax their rules so that people who are participants in that program can buy different sizes or brands of formula.
And I just have to note here, this has also become a massive political issue in Washington. Republicans and Democrats are pressing the White House to do something. And some lawmakers have called on the White House to invoke the Defense Production Act. That is something that was an act - was used repeatedly during the pandemic on other issues. And the White House said this week that they're looking into that, but that that would actually be bit more of a long-term solution because baby formula is really complicated to make.
SIMON: Finally, Mike Pence - headed to Georgia later this month to campaign for Governor Brian Kemp, for whom President Trump has no use, against David Perdue, a candidate supported by President Trump. This is a sharp split between Pence and Trump, isn't it?
SUMMERS: Yes, it is. And this comes as we've seen former Vice President Pence take a number of really big steps to distance himself from his former partner, from former President Trump. And this is, of course, all happening with the 2024 presidential race hanging in the backdrop. And that's something, of course, that could put Pence in direct competition with his former boss if they both jump into the race. I'm also watching this really closely as it's - a number of those states where we're seeing the test of President Trump - former President Trump's endorsement power as we head into 2022.
SIMON: NPR correspondent Juana Summers, thanks for joining us this weekend.
SUMMERS: Thank you for having me.
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