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Tipsheet

What Happened in Wisconsin Could Be a Massive Red Flag for Republicans

AP Photo/Morry Gash

I dismissed the arguments about abortion being a critical issue that could engender Republicans. Every governor who signed more restrictive laws post-Dobbs won their re-election bids. When polled, these restrictions are not unpopular. Kansas was used as an example of the political blowback on the GOP, but Kansas already bans state funding, has parental consent laws, and bans abortions after 20 weeks. Many, including conservatives in the state, viewed the right-to-life amendment to the state constitution as unnecessary—you don’t get 58 percent voting “no” without GOP voters. I think the fallout and the media coverage will be overblown, but it’s time to pay more attention to the detrimental aspects because what happened in Wisconsin should be a massive warning sign to Republicans ahead of the 2024 elections. 

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The state has a solid 4-3 liberal majority on its state supreme court. The new judge, Janet Protasiewicz, has vowed to roll back abortion restrictions and torpedo the legislative map that favors the GOP. These are not shocking consequences, but the candidate was backed by groups who supposedly represented 2020 election deniers. The latter part is more relevant right now. Abortion isn’t popular and never will be, but voters are tired of candidates, specifically Republicans, whining about the 2020 election. 

There was funny business, but that fight is long over. It’s done, and voters, Republicans included, want to move on with their lives. That issue, I think, hurt the GOP more in 2022 than the abortion fallout. We had a slew of candidates who would pepper their rallies about the 2020 election. It scared away right-leaning independents and other voters who hate Biden but weren’t going to give the reins of power to this rambunctious bunch as their wallets are being torched by high inflation. 

This Wisconsin Supreme Court race also seemed to have a candidate quality issue as well, I hate to use that phrase, but it is what it is (via NYT): 

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The commanding victory on Tuesday by a liberal candidate in a pivotal race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court showed the enduring power of abortion rights and issues of democracy as motivators for Democratic voters, as well as a continuing struggle among conservatives to put forward candidates who can unite Republicans and win general elections. 

The liberal candidate, Janet Protasiewicz, swept onto the bench by 11 percentage points, a staggering margin in an evenly divided battleground state that signaled just how much last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has transformed American politics. 

The Wisconsin race centered squarely on abortion rights and political representation: Judge Protasiewicz all but promised voters that if they elected her, the court’s new 4-to-3 liberal majority would reverse Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban and overturn the state’s famously gerrymandered, Republican-friendly legislative maps. 

Wisconsinites responded to that pitch, rejecting a conservative candidate backed by anti-abortion groups who took 2020 election deniers as a client and struggled to rally Republican donors behind him. 

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Justice Kelly, the Republican, struggled to get donors behind him, admitting a statewide race is hard in rallies. That’s not what you want to hear. The hyper-focus on rising crime is an issue, but we have yet another election where it falls flat. Some retooling needs to occur, and fast.

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