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Monday, December 09, 2019

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The fight over abortion rights and former President Donald Trump's influence loomed large as voters in several states went to the polls on Tuesday. Here are some takeaways from the latest 2022 midterm election primaries:

Abortion Battle Lines In Michigan

In the Michigan governor's race, there will be no middle ground when it comes to abortion rights.

Tudor Dixon, a relative political unknown and right-wing commentator who received a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump, emerged from the Republican pack on Tuesday to take on Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November’s general election.

Whitmer has made the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of constitutional protection for abortion a centerpiece in her re-election campaign. Dixon supports a near-total ban on abortion, including for child victims of rape and incest, with the only exception for cases when the life of the mother is at risk.

A legal battle is being waged in the state over enforcement of a 1931 abortion ban. At the same time, supporters of abortion rights are seeking to place a measure on the November ballot that would legalize abortion in the state.

With just three months until the election, longtime Republican pollster Steve Mitchell said Dixon has enough time to mount a competitive challenge to Whitmer and should see a strong flow of campaign funds from outside the state.

Dixon is a former businesswoman in the steel industry who has billed herself as a “conservative mom” of four opposed to COVID-19 lockdowns at schools. Mitchell said she could appeal to like-minded parents and make a strong foil to Whitmer, who often talks about her own role as a mother of daughters and also faced criticism for her coronavirus lockdown orders.

“It’s going to be a fascinating race,” Mitchell said. “In my opinion, none of the men (in the Republican field) could have beaten Whitmer.”

Eric Defeats Eric

One Eric won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri and another Eric lost. As far as national Republicans are concerned, the right Eric prevailed.

Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general, defeated former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, whose campaign was marred by allegations of abuse by his ex-wife.

Polls ahead of the primary showed that if Greitens were to win the nomination, he could struggle in a November matchup against the Democratic candidate and perhaps jeopardize a Senate seat that Republicans cannot afford to lose if they want to seize control of the chamber. A Republican-affiliated group launched a TV campaign to derail Greitens’ chances.

None of that dissuaded Trump from taking the unusual tack on Monday of endorsing “ERIC” without specifying which one, leading both candidates to claim Trump’s support and giving Greitens a lifeline.

Schmitt is now expected to win the seat handily this fall, sparing the party from having to divert resources to Missouri that it had earmarked for other Senate races.

Republicans need a net gain of one seat to take control of the chamber.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)

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