Senate Republicans have been blessed with a 2024 map that minimizes their vulnerabilities while providing them a handful of top targets for picking up the two seats necessary to recapture the upper chamber.
But Republican strategists are starting to admit that two gargantuan problems stand in their way: abortion and Donald Trump.
“Any state where Republicans have trouble with suburban voters because of the Trump brand, they had double trouble with suburban voters because of abortion politics," one Republican strategist told The Hill’s Alexander Bolton about the 2022 midterm elections. "It was for no reason because there is no chance a federal ban on abortion happens, ever,” the source added, peddling a laughable lie.
The stated goal of the anti-abortion zealots who have been a driving force behind the Republican Party for decades has always been to end abortion in the U.S., full stop. Take the present positioning of the premier forced birther organization in the country, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. The group is currently trying to coalesce Republicans around a 15-week abortion ban, insisting that every GOP presidential candidate pledge to sign such a bill at a minimum.
But curtailing abortion access isn't their ultimate goal: It's just a convenient electoral stop this cycle on the way to eradicating the procedure altogether. The group's homepage prominently features a video alongside the declaration, "SBA Pro-Life America exists to end abortion."
The anonymous GOP source also sought to blunt fears of a total abortion ban by suggesting such a bill couldn't get the votes in Congress. But what we know about Republicans, without a doubt, is they will do whatever they damn well please as soon as they have the power to do so. LIke when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the unprecedented step of holding open a vacant Supreme Court seat for nearly a year following the 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in order to deprive a Democratic president the opportunity to fill it. But after the 2020 death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell jammed through a conservative replacement just one week before the presidential election.
McConnell took both radical partisan actions because he had the power to do so and given the opportunity, he will take radical partisan action once again, despite telling voters he believes abortion should be handled at the state level.
McConnell and Republican strategists are feverishly trying to assuage voters on abortion precisely because the forced-birther wing is intent on pushing a federal abortion ban. In fact, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina plans to give voters a tangible reminder of the peril by once again introducing his 15-week abortion ban this cycle.
“Some Republicans say abortion is a states’ rights issue. I reject that,” Graham said last month, directly contradicting McConnell.
The Republican strategist didn't mince words when reflecting on Graham's introduction of the same bill before last year's midterms.
“It was awful,” the strategist said. “From a campaign practitioner’s standpoint, it was awful.”
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake agreed, telling The Hill that abortion was a "twofer" in the midterms.
"It mobilized record numbers of young people and record numbers of Democrats, particularly Democratic younger women, and then it also helped us set up these races as a choice rather than a referendum,” Lake said.
That's exactly the formula Democrats need to recreate next year, she added. "We need to make this a choice, not a referendum,” Lake said.
But abortion isn't the only electoral landmine McConnell is dancing around; he's also dodging the topic of the twice-impeached, twice-indicted Trump potentially being Republicans' 2024 nominee.
Asked in mid-June whether he would support Trump if convicted, McConnell offered, "I'm simply going to stay out of it."
Unfortunately for McConnell and his mission to reclaim the majority, Trump is dominating the GOP field at every level—so much so that the Make America Great Again candidate saw fit to skip campaigning altogether on July 4th, MAGA Americana encapsulated.
In effect, the Democratic Party’s' dream ticket in 2024 might emerge, said Wisconsin-based GOP strategist Brandon Scholz.
“There’s two things Democrats need: Donald Trump and the abortion issue,” Scholz said.
In some ways, abortion remains the trickier issue for Republicans, since there's no party consensus on how to message the issue or even what the party's goals are. Should abortion be a state or federal issue; should Republicans back a total ban, near-total ban, or something slightly more moderate that anti-abortion zealots will never embrace; and should GOP candidates take it head-on or try to deflect, pointing to some other issue such as the economy or immigration?
What was once a unifying throwaway applause line for Republicans has become a multi-armed predator threatening to shred GOP candidates in perpetuity—a Kraken, if you will.