Purple State GOPs Insist Everything’s Fine, Abortions for Everyone

on July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) talks to reporters following a Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans are working to pass a stripped-down... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) talks to reporters following a Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans are working to pass a stripped-down, or 'Skinny Repeal,' version of Obamacare reform that might include repealing individual and employer mandates and tax on medical devices. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS

I wanted to walk you through some examples of how Republican candidates, and particularly Republican Senate candidates, are positioning themselves on the Dobbs decision and the demise of Roe. They are not surprising. But they’re powerful illustrations of why Republicans generally don’t want to talk about any of this and see it for the political vulnerability that it is.

Ron Johnson’s reelection race in Wisconsin is almost certainly a race Democrats have to win to get their two additional senators. Johnson has had two responses. After the May leak of the draft opinion he said that overturning Roe wouldn’t be that big a deal since women could just drive to Illinois. After the decision was released he claimed that Wisconsin’s 1849 anti-abortion law, which goes back into effect with Dobbs, will certainly be changed to allow a lot of abortions. “I don’t think that will stand for long,” Johnson told reporters. “I think the democratic process in Wisconsin will have something other than the 1849 law.”

This is absurd on its face. Wisconsin has a heavily gerrymandered state legislature which it is almost impossible for Democrats to capture. In the years Dems win gubernatorial elections in the state, they struggle to prevent Republicans from getting a supermajority in the legislature. Johnson’s stance is revealing since he is one of the most right-wing and intemperate of Senate Republicans. He blurts out impolitic remarks as frequently as the sun shines. Yet he’s finding it impossible to come up with a position that works for the majority of his state’s voters and his Republican base.

Now there’s Adam Laxalt in Nevada. He’s challenging Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Here’s the statement he released.

When he was the state’s attorney general he used his office to join various lawsuits aimed at curtailing or ending abortion rights across the country. Here he lauds the decision as “a historic victory for the sanctity of life” and then goes on to say that Nevadans are way pro-choice and that’s not going to change. So none of this will ever affect us, he suggests. This is, to put it mildly, not a coherent position, especially since a GOP Senate majority will likely vote to ban abortion nationwide as soon as January 2025. Any Democratic candidate should be able to drive a truck through that ridiculous position.

Then there’s Ron DeSantis in Florida. A May poll showed that 67% of Floridians want abortion to remain legal in all or most cases. 85% of Democrats and 63% of independents say that. After the ruling came out DeSantis said he would “work to expand pro-life protections” in the state but refused to give any more details or answer any more questions.

It’s a given that Republicans are on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue. What you can glean from these statements is that they’re so far on the wrong side of public opinion that they’re not willing to say what their opinion is at all. There’s no bridging the gap between their core supporters and the majority of the electorate in these states. What Democrats have on their side here is not only that Republicans are on the wrong side of the issue. But they can harp for months on the fact that their challengers won’t even say what their position is or whether they will vote to ban abortion at the federal level altogether.

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