Republicans scramble to change abortion messages before November

Republican candidates are changing their messaging on abortion after several recent elections showed the issue energizing Democrats.

Some House, Senate, and gubernatorial candidates have either reworked sections on their websites or posted ads aimed at downplaying, reversing, or clarifying some of their anti-abortion stances.

The change began over the summer after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but the change has become increasingly noticeable as more signs have emerged that abortion can be a galvanizing issue for Democratic voters in key states.

“I think the concept that for decades, you know, a Supreme Court fight energized the conservative base because they wanted to overthrow Roe, didn’t it?” Republican strategist Barrett Marson, who previously worked on the campaign of Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, said.

“I think you’re going to see a turnaround on this, that the liberal base will be more energized on this issue because they got pulled out of it,” he added.

Earlier this month, voters in the red state of Kansas vehemently rejected a ballot measure that would have given the legislature more power to restrict the process. And last week, Democrat Pat Ryan won a New York special election seen as a bellwether after focusing his campaign on abortion rights.

In three other special elections since the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections, Democrats have exceeded expectations, though they ultimately lost. And states such as Pennsylvania, Idaho and Wisconsin are seeing larger gaps open between new female and male voter registrations since the Supreme Court’s ruling, according TargetSmart, the Democratic data services company.

Taken together, the developments have seemingly caused Republicans to reassess their approach to an issue that has already shown it can help sway the election and for some back away from support for outright banning the abortion.

BNC News reported last week that Masters had changed some language on his website regarding his stance on the issue, including getting rid of the “I’m 100% pro-life” line and supporting “a federal person law (ideally a constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings who cannot be killed.

The network, which took images of the website before and after its update, also reported that the previous version claimed it supported legislation that would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, while an updated version update showed him that he supported restrictions after the third trimester.

“He moderated that question slightly, and I would still say he’s pretty staunchly pro-life,” Marson said of Masters. “I mean, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s very pro-life. And so, did he, you know, step back from maybe some of the tougher positions? Sure. But [I] don’t think he’s, you know, all of a sudden a moderate on the matter. He is not.”

The Masters campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but the campaign directed NBC to an interview he did earlier this month with The Arizona Republic after his primary in which he voiced support for third-quarter restrictions. He also backed the state’s 15-week abortion ban that describes life-saving exceptions as “a reasonable solution.”

Other GOP candidates find themselves fending off Democratic attacks on their positions on abortion.

In Washington state, Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley, who is taking on Senator Patty Murray (D) ran an ad last week that included the line “Patty Murray spent millions to portray me as an extremist. I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal ban on abortion.

The announcement came after Murray’s campaign posted an ad who slammed Smiley for her previous support for Texas abortion law and accused her of supporting a nationwide ban. Smileys has already said she did not support a federal ban and took a critical stance earlier this year on Texas law.

Smiley’s spokeswoman, Elisa Carlson, claimed Smiley hadn’t changed her message, saying she posted the ad to reiterate her stance on abortion and was willing to work with both parts. Although she acknowledged that Smiley had previously supported Texas’ abortion ban, she said Smiley changed her mind “when it became clear how far this law went.”

The latest moves are a continuation of a trend that started this summer.

Scott Jensen, the GOP governor’s choice in Minnesota, told Minnesota Public Radio in an interview in Marchbefore the Supreme Court ruling, that he would try to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade was canceled.

“We have huge opportunities and availability of birth control. We don’t need to snuff out lives that, if left alone, will produce a viable newborn, who could become the next Albert Einstein,” he said at the time.

Jensen in July posted a video with his running mate, Matt Birk, following the Supreme Court ruling, saying he supports certain exceptions.

“I’m just going to say it very clearly. Undoubtedly, rape and incest are exceptions that, without any hesitation on my part, I would like a pregnant woman to feel she absolutely has a choice. You cannot carry out a tubal pregnancy. What you would do is you would sacrifice the life of the pregnant woman, and as a doctor I would never accept that,” Jensen said in the video.

The Hill contacted the Jensen campaign for comment.

If there was any question that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would galvanize Democrats and abortion rights advocates, it was the developments following the ruling that showed the abortion issue could play a crucial role midterm.

Just a week after the High Court handed down its ruling, ActBlue, the digital fundraising platform for Democrats, had transported over $80 million.

The Kansas referendum has become a wake-up call for Republicans, even in red states.

And even in several special elections that Democrats have lost, such as in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district and Minnesota’s 1st congressional district. In the Congressional District, Democrats lost by single-digit races that were expected to significantly favor Republicans, a sign the issue could encourage greater voter turnout.

“I think they underestimated the power and the historic voice that women have always carried in this republic of more than 200 years. And I think they’re also underestimating how out of touch and out of step they’ve been with how, not just women, but what Americans think a woman has the ability to make her own decisions about. health care and those decisions remaining between her and her doctor,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright, who thought Republicans were trying to backtrack.

Mallory Carroll, spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America, argued that Republicans were not changing their minds on abortion, noting that their message was simply “a reflection of the office dynamic for which these people show up.”

“While we’d like to see every human life protected from the moment of conception, you know, from today, you know, from this moment on, the reality is that consensus won’t necessarily look like what I, you know, what my dream politics would look like,” she said, adding that there is a difference between what is achievable at the state level and at the federal level.

Republican strategist Doug Heye said he doesn’t think Republican candidates’ reassessment of their message on abortion would hurt them with voters, but the question distracts from what Republicans wanted to do mid- mandate: the economy, crime and a referendum on President Biden. .

“In politics, you want to talk about what you want to talk about and you want your opponent to talk about what you want to talk about, right? What they don’t want to talk about,” Heye said. “And so if you look at the Democratic posts right now, they’re spending a lot more time on abortion than on inflation. And that should tell Republicans exactly what they need to know in a ‘n’ don’t go.”

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