"Anti-Choice? Who Me?"
Republicans keep getting slapped down by the voters over women’s Choice—and they keep coming back for more. In Ohio, voters rejected the Republican’s anti-Choice diktats by a huge margin:
The Republicans lost in 9 out of the 10 biggest counties and the only one they won, Butler, (8th biggest) was essentially a 50-50 split. They got creamed in counties that Trump won, like Stark, Lorain, Delaware, Lake, Mahoning, Medina, Greene, Trumbull, Portage, Wood, Geauga, Clark, Ashtabula, Erie…
And yet, they’re back for more. Republican extremists are floating a new amendment that would consolidate power over reproductive laws within the Republican-controlled state legislature. They can do this because they drew themselves safe red districts so they feel they are electorally untouchable no matter how many times they tell the voters to shove it. Their own voters— the 42.9% who voted the anti-Choice position— will stick with them.
The ABC News affiliate in Cleveland reported that Matt Huffman, the state Senate president would like to see a 15 week abortion ban despite what the voters just said. Some fringe and alt-right Republican House representatives, led by crackpot Jennifer Gross, “are infuriated with voters— so much so that they are threatening to alter the democratic process in their favor.” Gross is joined by Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) and Beth Lear (R-Galena)— “described by other Republicans as being on the extreme end of their caucus due to anti-vaccine beliefs, peddling of conspiracy theories, and disapproval of equal protection for the LGBTQ+ community”— in trying to remove the judiciary from having a role in interpreting the new constitutional amendment.
Trump, who has no strong views on anything other than amazing power and wealth (winning), is trying to balance his base’s anti-Choice views with the pro-choice position of the swing voters he needs to be reelected. Yesterday Dan Pfeiffer devoted his column to it, asking if the issue can defeat Trump next year. “In the wake of another excellent election night,” he wrote, “some Democrats have begun describing the optimal strategy for 2024 as ‘Dobbs and democracy.’ In other words, use the threat that Donald Trump poses to abortion rights and democracy against him. On paper, this idea makes a lot of sense. Focusing on abortion rights and democracy worked in 2022 and 2023. Despite lower approval ratings for Biden and widespread dissatisfaction with the economy, Democrats secured notable victories. Considering this success, there lies a valid question: why wouldn’t this strategy continue to be effective in 2024?"
Pfeiffer acknowledges that abortion will be a huge issue in 2024 but, he asserts “presidential elections are different. One key point to consider is that the voter turnout in a Presidential election is significantly larger, and consequently, distinct from that of midterms and special elections. Take Ohio for example:
More than 3.8 million Ohioans voted in this week’s election. This massive turnout speaks to the galvanizing power of abortion as a political issue; still, it’s fewer than two-thirds of the total number of 2020 Ohio voters.
"That dynamic will replicate itself all across the battleground states as millions of people who haven’t thought about politics in years re-enter the political fray… The American Presidency is unique among Western democracies. The President is not just the head of government; he or she is also the head of state. We are choosing someone to implement policies we like, represent the nation on the world stage, protect us from threats, domestic and foreign, and comfort us during national and personal tragedies. This is one reason why the person who wins the Presidency is not always the one with the more popular positions.”
This is not to say that abortion will not be Trump’s downfall; it’s just that the strategy will need to be different than it was in 2022 or 2023."
Trump is personally responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade. We know this because he brags about it all the time. If he is elected President, he will utilize every lever of power available to make it even harder to access an abortion all across the country. Reproductive freedom will turn into a nightmare in this country if Trump is elected. That reality should be a much bigger part of the campaign coverage.
However, focus groups and polls show that some voters don’t see Trump as being as anti-abortion as other Republicans.
…Because he is a thrice-married, wannabe playboy from New York City known for cheating on his wives, voters assume that Trump is personally pro-choice. Focus groups proactively bring up the idea that Trump has probably paid for multiple abortions.
In the New York Times/Siena poll, Biden leads Trump 49-40 on the issue of abortion, but 14 percent of those who trust Biden more are still planning to vote for Trump in 2024. A federal 15-week abortion ban is opposed by a margin of 50-43, but 19% of the people who strongly oppose such a law are still voting for Trump.
One of the undertones of the “Dobbs and democracy” strategy is that it comes at the expense of talking about the economy. President Biden has done so much and gotten so little credit for economic progress. There seems to be a real disconnect from the reality of the economy expressed in the numbers and how people perceive the economy in their personal lives. Improvements in the economy do not lead to improvements in Biden’s numbers or approval of the economy. This is a largely unprecedented phenomenon and extremely frustrating. So much so that some folks want to largely ignore the economy.
But that would be a mistake.
American politics has changed a lot since the “It’s the economy, stupid” era of the 1990’s, but it still matters a lot.
The polling shows that the economy is more important to voters than abortion rights. The New York Times poll asked voters which issues were more important when deciding who to vote for: “social issues such as abortion, guns, and democracy” or “economic issues such as jobs, taxes or the cost of living.” Registered voters chose economic issues 57-29. This is a 12-point increase since 2022, according to Times polling in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona.
This helps explain why Trump leads in the polling despite being on the wrong side of the most important political issue in a generation.
People were just as unhappy about the economy in 2022 (and inflation was a much bigger problem) and Democrats still won; why would 2024 be different?
In tough economic times, voters may express their anger by voting against the party in power during midterm elections, but voters don’t really think Congress is in charge of the economy. As unfair as it often feels to incumbent Presidents, the American hold the President accountable for their personal financial situations.
Yesterday, Popular Information took up the same topic, more of less Tesnim Zekeria and Rebecca Crosby looked into how Trump plays the media on abortion, noting that even while Republicans suffer major losses from their reactionary stance on abortion, major media outlets have portrayed Trump's stances on abortion as “less extreme. Over the last few months, mainstream media— including the New York Times, the Associated Press, and Politico— have portrayed Trump as ‘moderate’ on abortion rights. This week, for example, a New York Times headline described Trump as ‘Less Vulnerable on Abortion Than Other Republicans.’ The subheadline noted that his ‘vague statements on the issue may give him some leeway with voters.’ Unlike his Republican rivals, who have ‘struggle[d] to address shifting views on abortion,’ Trump has ‘effectively neutralized abortion as an issue during the Republican primary,’ according to the New York Times analysis. The piece claims that ‘Trump has distanced himself from more restrictive abortion laws, favored by some in his party, seeming to recognize their unpopularity.’ The story glosses over Trump’s actual record and policy positions, instead framing him as someone who has ‘been on many sides of the abortion issue over the years.’”
And a recent AP article noted that “Trump says he ‘would negotiate with Democrats on abortion legislation.’ The article notably gave zero details on what such a ‘negotiation’ would entail and did not challenge the plausibility of the idea.” But voters like the idea of negotiating. “Similarly,” they wrote, “a Politico article from September claimed that Trump has taken a ‘moderate turn on abortion’ and ‘boxed in the deep-pocketed anti-abortion groups.’ The article ends with a discussion of how ‘[s]ome Democrats and abortion rights activists are also worried Trump’s calls for compromise and moderation could win people over.’… Newsweek claims Trump has warned Republicans ‘to get realistic about abortion.’”
“Trump,” they reminded their readers, “has played this game before. In 2016, Trump made headlines after saying during an interview that he would change the Republican party platform to create exceptions for abortion bans. ‘Trump Calls For GOP To Moderate Its Platform On Abortion,’ an NPR headline blared. But there was nothing moderate about how Trump dealt with abortion in his first term. And there is nothing to suggest that his second term will be anything different. Trump has repeatedly described himself as the ‘most pro-life president in American history.’ During his term as president, he appointed three conservative Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump celebrated the court’s decision, calling it, ‘the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation.’ Trump bragged that overturning Roe was ‘only made possible because I delivered everything as promised.’ At an event in Iowa in September, Trump said that ‘last year I was able to do something that nobody thought was possible… we ended Roe v. Wade,’ adding, ‘I got the job done. I got it done.’ Trump has also taken credit for the extreme abortion bans that were passed in states across the country after Roe was overturned. In a post on Truth Social, Trump said, ‘Without me there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to.’”
If elected in 2024, Trump has promised to continue to appoint anti-abortion judges, who could further limit reproductive rights. Before the 2016 election, Trump released “a list of [anti-abortion] judges he pledged to appoint to the Supreme Court as president.” In June, in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Trump “promised to again release before Election Day a list of potential nominees for any Supreme Court openings.” Future Trump-appointed judges could further erode reproductive rights by making it more difficult to obtain abortion pills or imposing other restrictions.
Despite media reporting suggesting otherwise, Trump has never said he opposes a national abortion ban. He said he is open to it and supports using the power of the federal government to further restrict abortion rights. In a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Trump said that there is “a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life.”
In April, during an interview with WMUR, Trump was asked if he would sign a 15-week abortion ban. “We’re looking at a lot of different options… and we’ll get something done where everyone is going to be very satisfied,” Trump said. When pushed to clarify if he meant on a national level, Trump said, “I think we’ll get it done on some level, it could be on different levels, but we’re gonna get it done.”
In September, during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump was asked if he believed abortion rights should be decided by federal law. “It could be state or it could be federal. I don’t frankly care,” Trump said, adding that he “can live with it either way.”
Trump has not staked out a more moderate position. He is just being purposefully evasive.
Trump supported a national abortion ban in his first term. In 2017, a federal bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks was formally supported by his administration. A statement by the Office of Management and Budget said that the Trump “administration ‘strongly supports’ the bill and ‘applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections.” Trump “vowed to sign the bill if it passed Congress.”
Will Saletin noted yesterday that statewide candidates really have no choice but to scramble for safe ground. “The National Republican Senatorial Committee is telling candidates to oppose a federal abortion ban. The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee is advising them to settle for ‘reasonable limitations.’” The two most extreme anti-Choice presidential candidates, Mike Pence Tim Scott, are gone and the others are squiggling wiggling to find ways not to piss off the base or the suburban voters.