True enough—congressional Democrats couldn’t have dreamed up anything more enraging than conservatives taking a hatchet to the fundamental rights of some 50% of the country. Still, Republicans have only themselves to thank for putting Congress in play amid such a thorny political cycle for Democrats. They could have neutered Donald Trump's political future during his second impeachment following the deadly Jan. 6 coup attempt. But instead Republicans made Trump the epicenter of their party for at least another cycle or more. If Republicans had shown the fortitude to vanquish Trump, their entire slate of candidates would look entirely different heading into November. Imagine, for example, if word-challenged former football star and alleged wife abuser Herschel Walker weren’t the GOP's best shot at scoring a pickup in the Senate.
Republicans had hoped a uniquely unified party would head to the polls in November to register their disgust with soaring inflation and President Joe Biden's leadership after an election many Republican voters baselessly believe Trump won.
Instead, the abortion ruling upended the cycle by firing up Democrats and independent women, while the Jan. 6 probe has left a weakened Trump leading a party that is starting to fray at the edges. By November, GOP voters might already be duking it out over whether to stick with Trump in 2024 or toss him for a fresher face like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But Republicans are either still in denial about their shifting fortunes or they're lying through their teeth. NBC reports that on one hand, most GOP officials in Washington dismiss the fallout from the Dobbs ruling. At the same time, however, they are advising GOP candidates to steer clear of talking about abortion.
In other words, we're not worried … but whatever you do, don’t utter the word “abortion.”
Even politicians like former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who revels in controversy and hopes to recapture the governor's mansion this fall, said, "I don't have time for abortion" when questioned about it last week.
That type of dodge is a far cry from May just after the decision first leaked, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was assuring everyone the final decision would be a "wash" in federal races even if it might impact state contests.
At the time, endangered GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin pooh-poohed the notion that overturning Roe would even register in the Badger State.
“It might be a little messy for some people, but abortion is not going away,” Johnson said, adding that Wisconsinites could still drive across state lines to Illinois for reproductive care. “I just don’t think this is going to be the big political issue everybody thinks it is, because it’s not going to be that big a change.”
Easy for the white male conspiracy-pusher with the cushy job to say. But last month, Johnson got a little taste of reality when the Marquette Law School poll found him trailing three of his potential Democratic challengers.
DeSantis is taking a more circumspect approach, settling for the moment for a 15-week ban on abortion as he seeks reelection.
“The strategy is obvious,” one GOP operative told NBC. “Do it after the gubernatorial so as to not piss off suburban women, then screw them over after the election in order to appease fire-breathing pro-lifers in a presidential primary.”
In other words, the guy who took on Disney for political sport doesn’t want to get anywhere near abortion until he has secured another four years.