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SCOTUS on the Campaign Trail: Dems Want Hobby Lobby to Swing Critical Senate Race

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) attacked both the Hobby Lobby U.S. Supreme Court decision and Republican Terri Lynn Land over the 5-4 vote that came down in favor of closely held businesses being able to decide whether they would offer contraceptive coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

The Michigan Democratic Party took the opportunity to again blast Land, issuing several press releases July 1 attacking Land for what the state party described as her “radical agenda” on birth control and her initial silence on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

“I support access to birth control, but closely held companies should not be forced by the government to take actions that violate their religious beliefs,” Land said in a statement late Tuesday after Democrats began their onslaught.

Land’s campaign spokeswoman Heather Swift told the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine May 29 that Land “does not support legislation that would ban access to birth control like the pill or IUD.”

Yet Swift declined to say whether Land would deny access to emergency contraception commonly known as “morning-after pills.”

Peters and Land, Michigan’s most recent former secretary of state, are locked in what is seen by Democrats and Republicans as one of the six key U.S. Senate races in the 2014 midterm elections.

Democrats want to hold on to the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Republicans want to win back the seat they have not held since Spencer Abraham was defeated by Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who has served in the Senate since 2000.

The Peters campaign said June 30 the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case amounts to discrimination against women and Peters believes that women should be making their healthcare decisions with their doctors without interference from their employers.

Peters for Michigan also attacked Land for supporting two proposals to amend the Constitution to define personhood, what he said would limit access to contraception and outlaw abortion without exception for rape, incest, or life of the mother.

Peters promised that he would continue to fight “extreme efforts to discriminate unfairly against Michigan women” by limiting access to contraception.

If the Hobby Lobby ruling turns out to be as important to women voters as the Democrats predict (and hope), it could be more than problematic in this race.

Peters has led Land in the last six polls, including the most recent from the Democrat-leaning firm Public Policy Polling that was released July 1.

The PPP poll of Michigan voters shows Peters is still a relative unknown outside of Metro Detroit. Forty-six percent of voters do not have an opinion on him. Despite this, Peters leads Land by 5 points at 41 percent to 36 percent.

Most importantly, the PPP poll shows 42 percent of women already view her unfavorably and 31 percent favorably, while Peters rings up a 28 percent favorable rating and 22 percent unfavorable rating among women.

This is not the first time Land has been caught on the horns of the contraceptive debate in Michigan.

Land recently accepted the endorsement of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports requiring women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds before having an abortion. The group also rallied to Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s defense in 2012 when he said that pregnancy from rape was “something that God intended.”

Democrats were racheting up their rhetoric to red-hot by this afternoon, demanding Land comment on the Hobby Lobby case.

“Terri Lynn Land supported proposals that would lead to limiting access to contraception. Now that employers aren’t required to cover contraception, Land should answer whether she will choose to discriminate against her female employees and deny them contraception coverage,” said Kevin McAlister, the senior communications advisor for the Michigan Democratic Party.

“Michigan women just can’t trust Land when she agrees with the Supreme Court that a woman’s boss should be making her health care decisions.”

The Michigan Democratic Party also released a statement that read, “If Land has her way, she would end a woman’s right to choice by banning abortions even in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.”

That was followed by an MDP press release noting Land’s campaign had just been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business.

“Land’s silence while embracing another Koch Brothers group only solidifies what Michiganders are already seeing: Land has an anti-women, anti-middle class agenda that would turn the clock back on women and give more tax breaks to billionaires who don’t need them,” said Joshua Pugh, the communications director of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Land said she was “honored” to receive the NFIB endorsement. “As a small business owner myself, and having grown up in a small family business, I know firsthand how burdensome and costly federal regulations are to doing business and providing for the family,” she said.

It is easy to understand why the Democrats consider the Hobby Lobby ruling to be so important to their efforts to win more seats for gubernatorial candidates, retain control of the U.S. Senate and even enhance their power in the U.S. House.

They are hoping it lights a fire under young, unmarried women voters, without whom the Democrats might not be able to hang on to majority party status in the Senate.

Democracy Corps, run by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, along with the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, released a white paper June 25 that claims “unmarried women can make or break the election in 2014.”

“Unmarried women are the main story because they are reporting modest turnout intentions and the vote among this group is now close to 2010 level. But they clearly can be moved and mobilized by ‘in your shoes’ messaging,” according to the report.

And while the Hobby Lobby decision is not mentioned in the white paper, its authors also maintain that GOP attacks on Obamacare increase Democratic turnout.

The authors warn that if Democrats can’t get unmarried women to vote this November in greater numbers than two years ago, the party is doomed to see “a repeat of 2010…there is no bigger factor.”

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)

(This story was updated at 7:45 EST)