'Recalibrating their messaging': These Republicans admit that the GOP has an abortion problem

'Recalibrating their messaging': These Republicans admit that the GOP has an abortion problem
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Back in the mid-2000s, when she wrote her book “It's My Party, Too: Taking Back the Republican Party…. And Bringing the Country Together Again,” former two-term New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman warned fellow Republicans that they would suffer in swing states if they made extreme social conservatism and anti-abortion purity a litmus test. Whitman’s book was slammed by far-right Christian fundamentalists, who angrily labeled her a RINO (Republican In Name Only). But Whitman’s points were ones that that the late Sen. Barry Goldwater (a scathing critic of the Christian Right), former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (a pro-choice conservative) and other non-evangelical, non-fundamentalist Republicans had been making.

Whitman was adamant in maintaining that there needed to be room for pro-choice Republicans in the GOP. But in 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court did something that Whitman and other pro-choice conservatives hoped it would never do: It overturned Roe v. Wade in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And in the 2022 midterms, far-right Donald Trump-backed MAGA Republicans who campaigned on stridently anti-abortion platforms lost a lot of statewide races in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Georgia.

The abortion issue didn’t bring about the massive blue tsunami that liberal filmmaker/activist Michael Moore predicted; Democrats narrowly lost their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while winning a lot of gubernatorial races and slightly increasing their majority in the U.S. Senate. But Moore was absolutely right in saying that the abortion issue would be a liability for Republicans in the 2022 midterms, which were full of disappointments for the GOP.

READ MORE:'Unconscionable': Georgia Supreme Court resurrects six-week abortion ban

Now, according to reporting by The Hill’s Julia Manchester, some Republican strategists and activists are acknowledging that the GOP’s in-your-face anti-abortion strategy isn’t serving their party well.

In an article published by The Hill on December 29, Manchester reports, “Republicans are recalibrating their messaging on abortion after Democrats successfully used the issue to galvanize their base and win over swing voters in 2022. While the GOP largely focused on the three-pronged message of combatting rising inflation, crime, and the flow of migrants over the southern border, exit polls showed that abortion was a top priority for voters at the ballot box.”

One of the Republicans who is admitting that the abortion issue hurt Republicans in the midterms is Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who told talk radio host John Catsimatidis, “It was probably a bigger factor than a lot of people thought. We’ve got to get conversant on that. We can’t just do an ostrich method and pretend that it doesn’t exist when Democrats are spending $30 million on that message.”

Even Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, is acknowledging that Republican strategists dropped the ball after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

READ MORE: Stealth missionaries': Former anti-abortion lobbyist gives bombshell testimony on Supreme Court campaign

Musgrave told The Hill, “The Dobbs decision was not unlike a political earthquake. Republicans, in my opinion, could have had a much better response.”

Another person on the right who believes that the GOP didn’t handle the abortion issue well in 2022 is Jennifer Horn, an ex-Republican and former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. Horn, who identifies as “pro-life,” told The Hill, “For, at least Republican woman, a pro-life governor who is advancing limits on abortion is not unappealing. You can believe that women have a right to make this choice and that there should be limits on how far into a pregnancy that right should exist.”

Musgrave cited Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Texas’ Greg Abbott and Georgia’s Brian Kemp as examples of anti-abortion Republicans who won gubernatorial races in 2022. But Democratic gubernatorial candidates who campaigned on abortion rights in 2022 and won include Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, Arizona’s Katie Hobbs and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers.

Gov. Whitmer repeatedly hammered her far-right MAGA opponent, Tudor Dixon, as an extremist who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest and defeated her by 11 percent. And in Pennsylvania, Gov.-Elect Shapiro said the same thing about conspiracy theorist Doug Mastriano and defeated him by 15 percent. Michigan and Pennsylvania are both states that former President Donald Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020.

Horn believes that the abortion issue will be unavoidable for Republicans in 2024. The former New Hampshire GOP chair told The Hill, “For candidates like DeSantis who are clearly looking to become the next president of the United States, through the Republican primary process, this issue and every other issue that comes up over the next two years is going to be addressed through an I-want-to-be, presidency filter.”

READ MORE: The abortion pill, abortion bans and Republican policies that kill

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