State Rep. Stephanie Clayton reacts during the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom election watch party in Overland Park, Kansas, on August 2, 2022.

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CNN  — 

Given the chance to support abortion rights, even in a reliably Republican state in the middle of the country, voters will support abortion rights.

That’s the unexpected and consequential lesson from the Kansas primary on Tuesday.

CNN’s Greg Krieg called it a “thunderclap” in his analysis. That’s the right word.

Lawmakers in Kansas asked voters to change the state constitution, which protects the right to an abortion, and give them permission to pass new laws restricting or banning abortion. The voters resoundingly said no.

It was a bipartisan message. The vote was so overwhelming – more than 58% of Kansas primary voters voted to protect abortion rights – that it could not have happened without help from Republicans in the red state. More Republicans voted in the primary than Democrats. See the full results.

“We found common ground among diverse voting blocs and mobilized people across the political spectrum to vote no,” said Rachel Sweet, campaign manager with Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which organized against the amendment.

One reason the result is surprising. State-by-state polling from PRRI in 2018, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, suggested Kansas was among the red states and battleground states like Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, where the public was almost evenly split when asked if abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

The Kansas primary question was different, about whether lawmakers should have the power to regulate abortion rights. But it was the first time abortion was directly on a US ballot since the Supreme Court stripped women of the federally guaranteed right to obtain an abortion that they had grown accustomed to in the nearly 50 years following Roe V. Wade.

Turnout in Kansas was incredible. It’s August before a midterm election and yet more than twice the usual number of voters showed up.

In fact, turnout – more than 900,000 people took part in the primary – was on the level of recent midterm general elections. It was approaching presidential election levels – 1.2 million Kansans voted in 2016 and 1.3 million voted in 2020.

CNN’s Harry Enten dove into what we know about the turnout data and found that more than 150,000 people likely came out to vote only on the abortion amendment, suggesting it did motivate many voters.

“It’s very clear the abortion amendment drove turnout in Kansas in a way that the political environment without abortion on the ballot has not been able to,” according to Enten. Read his full analysis.

The result is a ray of hope for Democrats. They want to use the issue of abortion to drive voters to the polls in November, when control of the House and Senate is on the line.

They crowed in statements after the result, and President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Wednesday meant to safeguard abortion rights – although it will have little or no effect in states moving to curtail or completely cut off access to abortion. Read more about Biden’s order.

But abortion is not on most November ballots. The problem may end up being that, unlike in the Kansas primary, a direct question about abortion will not be on every voter’s ballot.

“This was actually abortion on the ballot,” said CNN political director David Chalian on “Inside Politics” on Wednesday. “So we have to see if that carries over in the general election context.”

But certainly Democrats will try to make this a top issue.

“Right now, every Democratic politician on the ballot, their strategists are saying, if you are in a battleground state and you are trying to win back some of those suburban independent voters who were repelled by Donald Trump in ’18 and ‘20, put abortion rights front and center in your campaign.”

A key question in key governor’s races. It will also feature in key governor’s races, including in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and especially in Michigan, where the Democratic governor is fighting to keep her job. Governors can provide a bulwark against GOP-dominated legislatures.

Activists who support abortion rights in Michigan have submitted signatures to secure space on the November ballot for an amendment to add protection for abortion rights to the state’s constitution and erase a 1931 abortion ban that is currently blocked by a court fight.

Where abortion might have less impact as an issue. In the parts of the country like Kansas, where Republicans have majorities in congressional delegations, it’s not at all clear Republicans who support abortion rights will defect to Democrats. In fact, there’s some evidence they will not.

CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy notes the public is clearly opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision – in a Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted July 22-24, a 65% majority said the ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade was a major loss of rights for women in America, with 35% saying it was not.

But she adds that opposition to the decision might not necessarily translate into a vote in November. The same survey finds that Democrats (62%) are less likely than Republicans (74%) to say they’re certain they’ll vote in the upcoming midterms.

She has also written that while a significant minority of Republicans support abortion rights, polling does not suggest they will shift to support a Democrat based on that issue alone.

What more voters are likely to list as a top priority is the economy. And that is a space where Democrats will have to explain why gas prices have taken so long to fall and why inflation continues to drive the costs of everyday goods up for Americans.

More takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries: