Robert Hubbell wrote on his blog that pundits predicted that the overturning of Roe v. Wade wouldn’t change anything. Team Red and Team Blue were locked into place. Dobbs wouldn’t make a difference.

Hubbell said: Kansas proved the pundits were wrong.

The old rules no longer apply. While it is still too early to understand the full ramifications of the resounding defeat suffered by anti-choice Republicans in Kansas, this much is clear: Polling models based on “historical data” are broken. Pundits rely on those models at their peril. Three months ago, after the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs, Sarah Isgur published an op-ed in Politico, Opinion | Abortion Might Not Be the Wedge Issue It Used to Be. Isgur wrote,

          After years of partisan sorting on abortion, there probably aren’t many voters motivated by that issue left to turn out.

Isgur was about as wrong as she could be in her prediction. In her defense, she was undoubtedly applying the “old rules”—the ones that applied before the Supreme Court gave states control over women’s reproductive choices. But Isgur’s failure of imagination prevented her from seeing that “this time is different.” Early data from Kansas proves just how different it is. See Vox, 4 charts that show just how big abortion won in Kansas.

The article in Vox illustrates the many ways in which Isgur (and other pundits) were wrong. The first relates to the mistaken notion that reproductive freedom will not motivate turnout. That myth was dispelled by the largest turnout in Kansas history in a primary election—nearly double the normal turnout. See Chart 1 in Vox. No polling model assumed a 100% increase in turnout. The old rules no longer apply.

The second myth destroyed in Kansas was that “partisan sorting” had divided America into a “red team” and a “blue team” on abortion. Wrong. One reason for the substantial margin of victory for choice in Kansas was that 90,000 Republicans switched from the “red team” to the “blue team” on the abortion issue. Only 25% of voters in Kansas are registered Democrats, but the measure was defeated by 59% to 41%. See Charts 2 and 3 in Vox. The old rules no longer apply.

The third myth destroyed in Kansas was that reproductive choice would not motivate women to register and vote in larger numbers. Wrong, again. The final chart in the Vox article shows that before the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs, women accounted for 52% of new voter registrations. After the release of the draft, women accounted for 58% of new registrations, and after the release of the final opinion in Dobbs, women accounted for 68% of new voter registrations. It turns out that telling women they are second-class citizens gets their attention. The old rules no longer apply.

The pundit class has risen to its collective defense by dampening expectations that the result in Kansas will apply in the midterms. In pundit-speak, the vote in Kansas was an “issues vote,” while the vote in November will be an “electoral vote,” i.e, a vote on candidates, not on issues. As explained in a Washington Post analysis of the outcome in Kansas,

“There is a big difference between asking people to weigh in on an issue and asking them to weigh in on a candidate who embodies a range of issue positions.

The WaPo analysis concludes with this assertion:

          I have highlighted the key phrase in the WaPo analysis above: “Rarely”—an explicit invocation of history and the “old rules” governing turnout in midterms. Pundits were caught off-guard by what happened in Kansas and are busy tut-tutting and tsk-tsking those who believe that the firmament has shifted. Democrats don’t need a 17% margin of victory (as in Kansas) to overturn “conventional wisdom” in the midterms. A 3% uptick for Democrats will produce a seismic shock in the midterms, leaving the pundits sputtering a new round of excuses and post-facto rationalizations.

“For many on the left, the results in Kansas were a reminder of precisely that point: Turnout matters. But electoral politics are rarely downstream from views on one single issue.”

Here’s my point: The victory in Kansas guarantees Democrats nothing, but it gives us reason to hope and reminds us once again that we are in uncharted waters—where existing maps are useless. Conventional wisdom is dead. We are not prisoners of the past and our choices are not controlled by massive datasets that describe behavior before Dobbs, before Bruen, and before January 6th. We control our fate going forward. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.