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In Illinois, Abortion Has Raised Tensions Between Candidates

by Mike Chirillo, published
(Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune)

In Illinois, abortion has raised tensions between candidates for the 8th Congressional District. In a new poll released Friday, Tammy Duckworth has a 10-point lead over Representative Joe Walsh. The lead comes in the wake of Joe Walsh (R) decrying an approved ad by Duckworth (D) in which Walsh's child support dispute with his ex-wife is attacked.

This has been one of the most bitter races in the country, as both sides have employed controversial attacks on one another. In recent months, Walsh has accused his opponent of publicizing her service in the military in order to sway voters. Duckworth has hit back, citing Walsh's position as being "pro-life without exception" in the case of abortion. Her latest ad, depicting Walsh as a "deadbeat dad," can be construed as a further appeal for women voters.

With abortion at the forefront of both national and state races, women have become increasingly important, next to independents, in the waning days of this election season. According to Gallup, 47 % of self-identified independents are pro-life. In a WAPO-ABC poll, Romney leads Obama 56% to 39% among independents. Both presidential candidates are now tied at 47% among women voters, with Obama relinquishing a 16-point advantage from last month. Nationally, abortion has taken a backseat to the economy as the number one issue among independents – and arguably, among women – much to the chagrin of the Democratic Party.

Illinois's 8th Congressional District is a microcosm of the presidential race, much like other tight races in the country, and particularly as it pertains to the issue of abortion. Obama recently attacked Romney via Twitter for his pro-life stance:

"FACT: Romney would take away a woman’s right to choose and even said he’d be “delighted” to sign a bill banning all abortions."

Duckworth has also seized on this opportunity late in her campaign, declaring she is "pro-choice without exceptions." Duckworth appeared with California Congresswoman Jackie Speier at a rally this week, where Speier discussed a life-saving abortion she had gone through.  Joe Walsh recanted his staunch pro-life attitude after that rally, declaring that there were "very rare circumstances" in which an abortion might be necessary to save a woman's life.

Whether in the presidential or in state races, abortion is a core issue that has been utilized by Democrats to sway public opinion on the campaign's last stretch. Women and independents may now prove detrimental for Walsh on a state level – in much the same way they may prove detrimental for Obama in his quest for re-election.

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