GOP Candidates Really Don’t Like Getting Called Out for Their Antiabortion Views
Just a few months ago, Republicans looked poised to flip the House and the Senate in a “red wave” fueled by Joe Biden’s dismal approval ratings, rising inflation, and a stalled-out legislative agenda. But the political landscape looks significantly less favorable for Republicans these days, particularly following the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn *Roe v. Wade—*an issue Democrats are rallying their base around. GOP candidates across the country are apparently feeling the change in tide, going on the defensive about their stances on abortion.
In California, representatives Mike Garcia and Michelle Steel, two vulnerable Republican incumbents, recently retreated from an antiabortion bill they cosponsored last year by indicating their support for abortion rights in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the mother’s health, according to the Los Angeles Times. Such exemptions were not included in the Life at Conception Act. Steel, an antiabortion lawmaker with an A+ policy rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, has seemingly distanced herself from hard-line abortion policies this cycle, telling the Los Angeles Times that, despite her support for the measure, conversations “surrounding a nationwide ban on abortion are purely hypothetical at this point.” Garcia, facing a particularly tough race after redistricting decreased the number of GOP voters in his district, has assured his constituents that the Supreme Court’s decision “will not change access to abortions” in the state.
The political recalibration is perhaps no more apparent than in Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters’s campaign. After spending the contentious primary describing abortion as a form of “genocide,” calling abortion-rights activists “demonic,” and claiming that the left views abortion as a form of “religious sacrifice,” Masters has tempered his rhetoric, telling The Arizona Republic recently that the state’s 15-week abortion law is “a reasonable solution,” while also scrubbing a line on his campaign site billing him as “100% pro-life.” (In response to media reports on the changes to his website, Masters told the local NBC affiliate that he did not “remove my stance,” adding, “Go look at my website. It’s the most detailed, most pro-life agenda of any Senate candidate running nationwide. I’m calling for a constitutional amendment or at least a federal law.”)
Tiffany Smiley, the GOP nominee in Washington’s U.S. Senate race, also attempted to clarify her abortion stance last week, releasing an ad that declared, “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.” The spot came in response to an attack ad aired by her opponent, Democratic senator Patty Murray, claiming that Smiley is “Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate” and would support federal abortion bans if elected. In Smiley’s ad, the Republican candidate insisted that she is not the antiabortion “extremist” Murray has portrayed her as. However, leading up to the race’s primary election, Smiley said she agreed with Texas’s near-total abortion ban, which is widely considered to be among the most extreme in the country. Similarly, in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race, GOP candidate Adam Laxalt published an op-ed this month saying he would not support a nationwide abortion ban, despite previously calling Roe v. Wade a “joke” and criticizing Nevada’s lack of abortion restrictions. Laxalt still supports banning abortions after 13 weeks of pregnancy and his campaign site states he “will be a reliable vote against extreme” proabortion laws. In the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, abortion has become the focal point after Democratic senator Michael Bennet released a campaign ad accusing his GOP challenger, Joe O’Dea, of opposing the state’s abortion protections and supporting Donald Trump’s Supreme Court selections. According to Axios, O’Dea countered by declaring his support for abortions that take place within 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Democratic campaigns and groups have embraced proabortion messaging, spending $30 million on TV spots and $7 million on Facebook ads that reference the issue since the SCOTUS draft majority opinion was leaked in May, per data compiled by AdImpact and published by CBS News. A Monday poll from NBC News showed that “persuadable” midterm voters broke for Democrats by three points, a marked improvement for the party compared to the outlet’s pre-Dobbs surveys, which had Republicans leading by six points among those voters in March and May. Per a Pew Research Center survey published in July, nearly six out of 10 Americans said they believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases.