On the heels of an electoral shellacking Tuesday over their continued attacks on abortion rights, Republicans are in hair-on-fire triage mode. Republican Party operatives are now counseling their congressional candidates to disavow any support for a national abortion ban, according to NBC News.
At Wednesday's third Republican primary debate, only one of the five candidates committed to pushing a national abortion ban—a glaring lack of support among GOP presidential hopefuls. And even that single candidate, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, sought to take the edge off such a ban by using the term "limit" instead of “ban,” stealing a page from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's failed rebranding effort.
"I would certainly as president of the United States have a 15-week national limit," Scott said on stage, falsely claiming that 3 out of 4 Americans support a 15-week ban.
Scott may want to hire a new polling firm—and he apparently missed the memo that Youngkin's attempt to reframe Republican abortion bans got destroyed at the ballot box this week when Democrats gained control of Virginia’s General Assembly.
No matter what Republicans say now, remember North Carolina, where some Republican state lawmakers and candidates actually campaigned on protecting abortion access in 2022. But as soon as the GOP-led legislature had the votes earlier this year, Republicans jammed a 12-week abortion ban through, overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to make it law. Their denials on the campaign trail have no bearing whatsoever on how they will actually govern.
For now, many Republican candidates have made their radical support for banning abortions perfectly clear, and Democrats are promising to show those receipts.
“On the record and on video, Republican Senate candidates have already staked out dangerous positions that would make abortion illegal without exceptions — and we’ll make sure voters see and hear them in their own words,” said Tommy Garcia, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Indeed, throughout 2023, Democrats outspent Republicans on abortion ads by roughly $60 million—$74 million to $16 million—according to the media-tracking firm AdImpact.
As GOP strategists across the country attempt to regroup on abortion, the main piece of advice they are pushing is for Republican candidates to talk about it more and try to clarify their stance.
"What I do think is our candidates have to talk about this. We can’t put our head in the sand. We can’t let Democrats define us," Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told NBC's "Today" show.
A national Republican strategist echoed the sentiment. “Republicans just need to talk more about what they believe. You have to state your support for exceptions,” said the strategist. “It’s very evident that it’s not getting through where Republicans actually stand on this issue.”
One of the reasons for that confusion is the fact that Republicans are flailing about on the issue. In fact, right as the Senate Republican campaign arm was frantically trying to claw back GOP support for a national abortion ban, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio weighed in, telling CNN that Republicans needed to shift to embracing a national strategy on abortion. Namely: a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions—the same ban Youngkin was pushing.
"We can't give into the idea that the federal Congress has no role in this matter," Vance said.
One could argue that Vance was taking RNC Chair McDaniel's advice—not putting his head in the sand. One could also argue he completely blew up the strategy being desperately pushed by his own party operatives. Both would be true.
Republicans are so deep in this hole that they can't even find the light.