Last week we unpacked how Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) dodgy messaging on abortion in New Hampshire and Iowa during his soft launch of a possible 2024 campaign was emblematic of the omnipresent issue the Republican Party faces: that it has no idea how to message where it stands on the issue to a national audience.
Republican strategists both publicly and privately have been sounding the alarm for weeks, urging the party to figure out how to coalesce behind specific messaging. Some have suggested coalescing behind Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) proposed 15-week ban as a policy supposedly moderate enough to fly in the 2024 general election, particularly among independent voters who have voted with Democrats on the issue in recent elections.
Strategists tied to 2024 campaigns are also, reportedly, aware of the position Republicans find themselves in, at a moment when their most vocal contingent of voters wants them to build upon the Dobbs‘ success, but the majority of Americans are in favor of some sort of legal access to the procedure. Per the Associated Press:
Privately, at least, strategists involved with Republican presidential campaigns concede that the GOP is on the wrong side of the debate as it currently stands.
Not only has polling remained solid in showing the majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, but Democrats have also managed to succeed electorally repeatedly in recent months by putting the issue of abortion access front and center, from keeping the Senate to winning control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this month.
In recent days, another Republican, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (who has described himself as pro-choice), very plainly laid out the stakes:
“Any conversation about banning abortion or limiting it nationwide is an electoral disaster for the Republicans,” he said.
“The Republican Party has an inability to move off this issue in a way that doesn’t scare the heck out the average voter, the independent voter, the younger generation of voters,” Sununu continued. “These guys keep pushing themselves deeper and deeper into an ultra-right base that really does not define the bulk of the Republican Party.”
This all comes after a major GOP donor’s allergic reaction to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban in Florida made clear that the governor’s embrace of such an extreme position — which is unpopular in Florida, though potentially helpful in setting him apart from others in the 2024 primaries — will only hurt him in the general.
DeSantis’ own public promo surrounding the law’s passage makes it clear he is at least tangentially aware of the potential for blowback. When DeSantis signed his state’s 15-week ban into law a year ago, he did so with much fanfare. The event was televised as DeSantis, flanked by lawmakers and children with pro-life signs, signed the bill into law to jubilant applause.
When he signed the six-week ban into law last week, he did so in private and his office put out a late-night press release to mark the historic ban. When speaking to one of the friendliest groups imaginable to hype such an occasion the next day at Liberty University, he didn’t even bring it up.
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