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This Year's Republican Candidates Have An Extremism Problem, Part I (Choice)



Yesterday, the House passed two pro-Choice bills, first Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act (HR 8296), 219 to 210, every Republican voting no and every Democrat with the exception of Texas Blue Dog and anti-Choice fanatic Henry Cuellar, voting yes. It’s a simple, straight-forward mind-your-own-business piece of legislation that “prohibits governmental restrictions on the provision of and access to abortion services.” The second bill (HR 8297), the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, “prohibits anyone acting under state law from interfering with a person's ability to access out-of-state abortion services.” This passed 223 to 205, all the Democrats voting yes along with 3 Republicans, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Fred Upton (R-MI).


So it’s not just the Republicans on the Supreme Court who want to interfere with women’s health choices— it’s also Republicans in Congress. The Republicans in the Senate will filibuster both bills and neither will be voted on, but competent Democratic candidates will make the case how the GOP opposes the right to Choice.


David Siders, Adam Wren and Megan Messerly showed them how to do it before dawn yesterday in a Politico piece titled “Oh, God, no”: Republicans fear voter backlash after Indiana child rape case. “Republicans,” wrote the trio of reporters, “knew the minute Roe v. Wade was overturned that they had a political problem, particularly with moderates in the suburbs who they need to vote for GOP candidates in the midterms. The unfolding story of a 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines from Ohio for an abortion in Indiana is confirming just how damaging the issue may be.”

Soon after today's votes in the House, pro-Choice Democrat Steven Holden, who’s running for Congress in a new Central New York district, mentioned that his probable opponent, anti-Choice fanatic Claudia Tenney, “has continually shown that she does not hold in high regard a woman’s right to an abortion and bodily autonomy. She has cosponsored a bill that would recognize child support at conception. Whereas that is something that some would say is responsible, the reasoning behind it and those who support it are not. She and her backers want the Federal Government to recognize personhood at conception. And who are those backers? Far right groups such as the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. These are extreme groups who want to codify their version of religion. She wrote that she wants to help families who have crisis pregnancies, but she voted against funding baby formula. Furthermore, she wants to represent a district that is home to the Women’s Right Movement at Seneca Falls, NY. Her views are unbefitting the history of the district.”


Before the rapist was caught and subsequently admitted he raped the girl, Republican elected officials were, from the attorneys general of Ohio and Indiana, two real bozos, to members of Congress, were claiming it was fake news, and that either the girl didn’t exist or that she was lying, including some imbeciles— like Congresswoman, Debbie Lesko— (R-AZ) who said a 10 year old couldn’t conceive.


“Oh, God no,” one prominent Republican strategist said, after members of his party suggested the victim should have carried the pregnancy to term. “Very bad,” said another. Or as one anti-abortion rights Indiana Republican strategist put it, “I’m not touching this story with a 10-foot-pole wrapped in a blanket wrapped in a whatever.”
In the three weeks since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe, Republicans poised for a winning midterm election have strained to keep public attention squarely on President Joe Biden’s weak job approval ratings and on inflation, fearful that abortion— a deeply felt issue that polls poorly for conservatives— could lift Democratic turnout and push moderates away from the GOP.
The case has become an instant flashpoint in the nation’s abortion wars, alarming Republicans as they try to use abortion to rally base voters without alienating the majority of Americans who say abortion should remain legal in at least some circumstances.
But the case of the pregnant 10-year-old has laid bare how uncontrollable GOP messaging around abortion may be. Not only were right-wing media outlets and Republican politicians who cast doubt on the story forced to backtrack once the facts of the case were confirmed, but the hits to Republicans appear likely to keep coming.
On Thursday, Jim Bopp, the National Right to Life Committee’s general counsel, inflamed the issue when he told Politico that the 10-year-old girl should have carried her pregnancy to term— a statement he later said resulted in him receiving death threats.
Despite what GOP leaders and strategists would prefer, the story is unlikely to fade quickly. Later this month, Indiana’s state legislature plans to convene a special session explicitly to pass new curbs on abortion, likely becoming the first state to do so in the wake of the Dobbs decision that reversed the national right to abortion enshrined by Roe in 1973.
“These are the kind of things that are going to breathe life into the Democrats’ hopes of maintaining some sort of coalition,” said John Thomas, a Republican strategist who works on House campaigns across the country. “I don’t think this is the dominant issue as we’re going into November, but these kinds of unforced errors are lifelines for the Democrats.”
Thomas said the Indiana case has already come up in at least one race he is working on and that he has advised candidates that, “You try to avoid the topic. You try to pivot to another issue.”


And if that wasn’t bad enough, Philip Bump explained why the GOP Has A Trump Problem On Abortion. Also referencing the story of the 10 year old girl, he wrote that “When the story emerged, though, the most visible response on the right was neither sympathy nor recognition that this was the sort of carve-out common to abortion discussions. Instead, it was to cast doubt on the story itself. To deploy rhetorical mechanisms perfected over seven years of downplaying bad political news for Donald Trump to indicate that news reports were false— lies, even— and the child invented. Which, of course, she wasn’t. To a large extent, this was simply because the case was such an obvious example of an occurrence where Americans agree with abortion. It was the sort of exception that makes a defense of complete prohibitions on abortion difficult to sell. The response was also certainly influenced by months of conservative assurances that nothing would change in the wake of Roe’s repeal. That was a line heard more than once on Fox News; it was certainly not true that nothing had changed for this child who had been sexually assaulted. But there’s probably a broader issue at play here, one that should also be familiar from the early days of the Trump era. While most Americans have nuanced views of abortion, many of those in the Republican base don’t. Republican primary voters, if not donors, hold a harder line on abortion than do most Americans, and it’s those vocal, active Republicans who probably have the most success in driving the actions of Republican leaders. Just as the vocal, hard-right base of support for Trump shaped and continues to shape Republican politics.”


Data from the 2020 American National Election Study, conducted around that year’s election, indicates that Republicans who identify as “extremely conservative” made up a larger percentage of the primary electorate— nearly half— than those identifying as “conservative” or something further left. Republicans who identify as “extremely conservative” were much more likely to have absolutist positions on abortion— and extremely conservative Republicans who voted in the primary were more likely to say abortion should be banned in every circumstance than were extremely conservative Republicans who didn’t vote.
…For Republicans nationally, ongoing pressure from those activists creates political problems as surely as does Trump’s continued agitation. With an eye on November, the party would like to assure voters, particularly moderate women, that it will be accommodating and supportive of women who will now have to carry babies to term. But activists and legislators in safe red districts call for national legislation banning abortion or argue that the abused Ohio 10-year-old might eventually “understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.”
Not a strong campaign message for a national electorate in which only 1 in 10 people think abortion should always be illegal. But a good one for Republican primary voters in safe red districts.


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