The recent defeats at elections has resulted in the GOP scrambling to find a message on abortion that will placate the anti-abortion zealots in their base while not alienating everyone else. Will Saletan looks at where the GOP candidates for the presidential nomination have ended up.
AS A PRO-CHOICE BACKLASH against the Dobbs decision sweeps across the country—defeating pro-life ballot measures, passing pro-choice referenda, and taking down Republican candidates—the GOP is scrambling 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.”
In the Republican presidential race, the two men who stoutly advocated a federal ban on abortions—Mike Pence and Tim Scott—are gone. The candidates who remain on the debate stage or who don’t need it—Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Donald Trump—are hedging or downplaying the issue. They still call themselves pro-life. But they’re finding ways to pretend that they’re not a threat to abortion rights.
WHICH OF THESES CANDIDATES, beneath their respective façades, is most likely to ban abortions? Here’s my best guess. DeSantis signed the strictest ban as governor, and he’s doing the least to conceal that he’d do more as president. Haley, despite her pro-choice mimicry, would sign any abortion restriction that reaches her desk. Christie is the candidate least likely to sign a ban, since he has set the highest threshold for acting without a consensus of the states. I’m excluding Ramaswamy, who can’t be trusted.
As for Trump: He doesn’t care about this issue at all. He views pro-lifers as an interest group, like the dairy industry. He thinks that by ending Roe v. Wade and giving them the “power to negotiate,” he has sufficiently bought them off. And so far, he seems to be right.
Expect more shifting rhetoric from all of them as they grope around for a formulation that is evasive and vague enough to not antagonize too many people.
It is ironic that the call to ban abortions, which theGOP long used as a rallying cry for their base and resulted in them hailing the US Supreme Court’s overthrow of the Roe v. Wade precedent as one of their greatest victories, has so soon turned into an albatross around their necks.