The issue that defined the 2022 midterms is certain to remain salient through 2024. So expect plenty of abortion-related advertising as the ‘24 campaign cycle picks up momentum. Bryan Lesswing, a long-time campaign communications practitioner who recently joined SKDK’s growing New York office as an SVP, said it’s an issue Democratic candidates will lean on once again in competitive races.
“Abortion motivated voters in the 2022 midterm. It helped boost Democratic candidates across the country,” said Lesswing, who went over to the Democratic megafirm’s public affairs practice from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, where he had a senior advisor role.
“I think it helped boost Democratic candidates in areas that had been a bit more competitive for both parties, particularly the suburbs,” he said. “We’re going to continue seeing that going into this election cycle, both the off-year of this year as well as 2024, because, frankly, we’re still seeing this issue play out across the country in terms of states that are trying to take away abortion rights.”
Polling backs up Lesswing’s assessment. In fact, a record number (28%) of respondents polled by Gallup recently said “they will only vote for candidates for major offices who share their position on abortion.” That was a one-point increase from the previous record of 27% that was hit in 2019 and again in 2022 in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs‘ decision.
He thinks gun violence is also a prime issue for suburban voters. “It’s motivating voters. I think it gives Democrats an edge when it comes to pushing for gun reforms and gun safety.” Recent surveys show gun violence is increasingly seen as a public health issue by more Americans as opposed to simply an issue of constitutional rights.
Lesswing was at the DCCC during the 2016 cycle and later did a stint at EMILY’s List as the abortion rights group’s director of campaign comms. In 2018, he was comms director for Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D) reelect — a dream job since he’d started working on races post-college.
Now, Lesswing’s day-to-day work will include “supporting the firm’s corporate, crisis and advocacy clients,” according to the firm. Still, he sees public affairs and candidate campaigns sharing the same challenge in this media environment: the abundance of information channels.
“When it comes to planning … you just have to factor in all those various channels that people are now getting their information from,” said Lesswing, who in his spare time volunteers as a trainer for the group Blue Leadership Collaborative. “A good plan identifies those target audiences ahead of time so that you know exactly where your folks are at.”
He added: “At the end of the day, it’s about momentum and keeping it going.”