The New York Times reports that Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are going on the offensive by using cultural issues — anti-abortion, anti-contraception — against Republican opponents.

Say what?

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No, not in Arkansas. 

In Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado, important swing states, Democratic senators contending with a sour climate have used debates to hammer their Republican opponents on issues related to contraception and women’s rights. Those efforts may carry them only so far in a year when Republicans have more paths to winning control of the Senate than Democrats have to keeping it.

Sen. Mark Pryor has been working to mobilize women voters. He has much to work with, particularly Republican Rep. Tom Cotton’s opposition to paycheck fairness legislation and against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But you don’t hear  much about abortion or contraception, though Cotton’s positions are far out of the mainstream. He’s a supporter of “personhood” — protection from the moment of fertilization. This is precisely the extreme view that a Republican candidate in Colorado is backing away from — so much that he’s now promising cheaper and easier access to birth control pills. The personhood position  has deep implications — against morning-after pills; against protection for rape victims; against in vitro fertilization; a legal knot as to legal rights of microscopic organisms and much more.

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The Times article sees opportunities for Democrats in moderate states on account of a changing electorate. (Emphasis: moderate states.)

An electorate reshaped by a growing presence of liberal millennials, minorities, and a secular, unmarried and educated white voting bloc will most likely force Republicans to recalibrate.

On issues like gun control, drugs, the environment, race and even national security, this demographic shift has substantially weakened the right’s ability to portray Democrats as out of the social mainstream. When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent.

PS — For full context, here’s that Harvard Crimson column by Tom Cotton from which the highlighted quote in the photo is taken.

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