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Tipsheet

Analysis: New Polls Demonstrate Why Republicans Would Be Fools to Disengage from Abortion Debate

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

We touched on the abortion issue last week in this post, which offered qualified support for Sen. Lindsey Graham's newly-introduced legislation.  Many on the Left assailed the effort as a "federal abortion ban," implying that it would criminalize all abortions across the country.  We explained why that's misleading, and we also pushed back against some of the critiques arising from right-of-center sources: The timing was bad.  Focus on inflation. Leave it to the states.  The detractors make some fair points -- but overall, my view is that as long as Democrats are the more or less ceded the space to define this debate, Republicans are making a costly error.  As previously noted, Democrats are vastly outspending the GOP on abortion-themed attack ads, painting a picture of a Republican Party that wants to outlaw the practice entirely, which is a highly unpopular position.

A significant majority of Americans favor substantial restrictions on abortion, but not a full ban.  If voters are convinced that the difference between the parties is that Republicans will end all legalized abortion, while Democrats will oppose such efforts, voters are likely to side with the latter option.  Case in point, a new NBC News poll shows Democrats holding a double-digit lead (though shy of a majority) on the overall question:

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I'll return to abortion in a moment, but let's point out that the generic Congressional ballot number is exactly tied in this data set, which is roughly equivalent to the broader average on this metric.  Democrats have gained ground on this front over the summer and into September, but we highlighted why a tied generic ballot should likely not be seen as bad news for the GOP, and why polls may be overestimating Democrats' standing in a number of crucial races.  Indeed, the picture seems to have again brightened a bit for Republicans' Senate hopes in recent weeks.  Looking specifically at the NBC numbers, I can entirely understand why many conservative pundits and GOP-aligned strategists would want the party to stick to the issues on which they have clear advantages, from the economy (+19), to the cost of living (+14), to border control (+36) and immigration (+17), to crime (+23).  And by all means, Republicans should lean into those issues.  They should also press the case on education, on which they've been much closer in other polling; Democrats are vulnerable on that front, too.

Remember the vitriolic blow-up over Florida's parental rights law, dubbed "don't say gay" by opponents and the media?  The central dispute in that controversy was over a provision that I've strongly supported, even while expressing concerns over other components.  And that provision has proven quite popular both in Florida, and nationally.  Remember, the Democrats and their journalist allies spread falsehoods (MSNBC viewers, for instance, are hilariously misinformed about it, per new research) about the legislation, loudly and self-righteously adopting the...27 percent position on this question:

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Between ideological indoctrination, devastating school closures, and harmful COVID restrictions, Republicans have a strong case to make in the realm of schools and eduction, and they'd be crazy not to.  November marks the first national election since so much harm was inflicted on America's kids by teachers union bosses and their anti-science, Resistance-minded Democratic clients.  It'd be malpractice to let Democrats off the hook on these items, even if a survey from NBC News shows Democrats leading on the overall question.  Back to the matter of abortion and related politics.  I'm not arguing that Republicans would be well-served to try to make the election a referendum on the topic.  There are other massive issues, driving the fundamentals of the cycle, that are working in their favor.  But they do need to counter-program Democrats' abortion obsession.  The ruling party is working hard to paint Republicans with a broad, very restrictive brush on abortion, in a way that doesn't reflect reality.  Republicans hold a wide variety of views on abortion policy, from hardcore pro-lifers, to moderate pro-lifers, to moderate pro-choicers.

The party that has truly fallen into lockstep radicalism on the question is the Democratic Party.  They just don't want to talk about it, assuming their similarly pro-abortion allies in the news media will run cover for them.  Nearly every single Democrat in Congress, with literally two exceptions, supported legislation that would nationalize legal elective abortion-on-demand, for any reason, all the way up to birth, funded by tax dollars.  This is their actual position, which they rarely want to mention or defend, because it is exceptionally unpopular.  An overwhelming majority of voters reject the extremism that Democrats have formally endorsed.  It would be a dereliction for Republicans to continue to silently withstand unfair broadsides about their own supposed abortion extremism (which is sometimes merited, but often hugely overstated) without aggressively showcasing the actual radicalism of the people launching those attacks.  One way to help underline that point is to proactively favor mainstream policies, both in terms of international norms and American public opinion.  Graham's 15-week restriction, with a handful of popular exceptions, is such a policy.  Here's a new national poll from Trafalgar:

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This is a (+20) result in favor of the Graham bill, versus the Democratic position.  I'd tweak the description of the exceptions to include serious threats to the 'mother's life' (versus 'health'), but that's a fairly accurate presentation of the consensus Republican position (though many would go further).  The other description could be even more blunt in summarizing the Democrats' grotesque abortion bill, which was wrongly marketed as a 'codification' of Roe v. Wade.  Add in the word 'elective,' note that such abortions could continue through all nine months, and that taxpayers would pick up the tab, and I'd bet the gap between these two options would widen further.  I'll reiterate that I'm not arguing that the GOP should subordinate any of the issues that clearly benefit them electorally.  I'm also not advocating trying to turn November into an abortion election.  But to the extent that it will be, in some small-to-moderate part, an abortion election, Republicans must recognize that reality and respond effectively.  Hope is not a strategy.  I'll leave you with this note out of Ohio, which now has one of the more restrictive abortion laws in the country -- substantially more so than what Graham has proposed:

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...and also another reminder of how far Joe Biden has moved on abortion, from a relative moderate to a fanatic, per the requirements of his party's activist and donor classes:

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