Politics /

Abortion Policy Is Driving Republican Election Losses

Party strategists are now grappling with how to message on the issue ahead of the 2024 election

As numerous states continue to pass legislative measures seeking to further restrict abortions, the issue is having a strong impact on Republicans’ ability to win elections, according to new analysis.

Last week, a Democrat-backed judge won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, marking the first time liberals have had a majority in 15 years. In a video unpacking what cost Republicans the seat, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver says Republicans had weak candidate in incumbent Justice Dan Kelly, but that only tells part of the story.

“In a Marquette University law school poll last year, 55 percent of Wisconsin voters opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Silver said. “That really charged up liberal voters in Dane County, home to Madison, and the University of Wisconsin turnout equaled 70% of presidential year totals. That’s much higher than the rest of the state where it was 55 percent.”

Janet Protasiewicz, who gave Democrats a 4-3 majority on the court, defeated Kelly by a staggering 11-points after signaling to voters prior to the election that if chosen she would vote to overturn Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.

Prior to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion was banned in Wisconsin after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “After the ruling, an outright ban on abortion, first written in 1849 and amended years later, became the law of the land,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

In the final three weeks before the election, Protasiewicz launched a $700,000 statewide television ad buy pledging to protect a “woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion.”

Even despite two years of record high inflation and soaring gas prices, abortion has been the issue that has allowed Democrats to pick up a senate seat in the midterms, keep House losses to a minimum, retain all of their state legislatures — flipping Republican majorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania — and now produce victories in special elections.

Staff at all levels of the GOP have sounded alarm bells, as many worry that the Wisconsin race could be a bellwether for the party’s 2024 prospects.

“When you’re losing by ten points there is a messaging issue and abortion is still an issue and we can’t allow Democrats to define Republicans and put millions of dollars up in lies and have it go unanswered because the lies become the truth if they go unanswered,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel said after Kelly’s loss.

“I’m a suburban woman,” she added. “This is not an issue that is going away for our party in a post-Dobbs world and we can’t put our head in the sand thinking that it’s going to heading into 2024.”

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