Since Republicans fell short of expectations in last week’s midterm elections, party leaders, officials and strategists have all admitted that their staunch opposition to abortion rights probably hurt them.
But Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), which introduced legislation for a national abortion ban just weeks before the election, was unapologetic about its controversial decision to raise the matter.
“Everyone who embraced my bill did pretty well,” Graham told The Bharat Express News. “JD Vance won [in Ohio], [Sen. Marco] Rubio won [in Florida] – I think America is very much in the camp of limitations late in pregnancy.
Graham’s bill would have banned abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, leaving the undermining of other Republicans who insisted on the issue to individual states. Democratic candidates could point to the proposal as evidence of what the GOP would do with a majority in the Senate.
While Vance and Rubio won last week, other Republicans who embraced the idea of a national abortion ban lost, including Arizona venture capitalist and Senate hopeful Blake Masters.
Both Republican and Democratic strategists agree that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which overturned Roe v. Wade and ended federal protections for abortion rights — changed the midterm elections and reawakened a Democratic base that had otherwise been peacefully dormant while former President Donald Trump was absent . (However, several strategists disagree on the role Dobbs played in winning independents and moderate Republicans to the Democratic cause.)
Some Republican senators also pointed to Dobbs as a reason their party was struggling.
“I think abortion was a much bigger issue against us than we anticipated,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told The Bharat Express News.
“Dobbs did influence the mood in the suburbs,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (RN.C.).
For much of the cycle, Republicans worked feverishly to downplay the importance of the issue and soften the possibility that the party would take action to significantly restrict abortion if it gained control of Congress. Graham’s decision to introduce a ban blew up that strategy, even though some polls suggest that the idea of a 15-week ban splits the electorate somewhat evenly.
At a press conference with other Senate Democrats, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) pointed to Graham’s abortion ban as a turning point in her successful race against Republican Adam Laxalt. Nevada’s state constitution protects the right to abortion, and Laxalt’s campaign had argued that the issue should be of limited concern to the state’s voters.
“I was talking about a federal ban on abortion and that my colleagues would try to introduce one to prevent our state law, and then Lindsey Graham introduced it,” Cortez Masto said.
Graham urged Democrats to continue embracing abortion rights, predicting it would cost them in the future.
“Roe v. Wade gave [Democrats] energy, but their stance on abortion versus my stance — I love that match,” he said.
National exit polls sponsored by the major television networks showed that three-fifths of voters thought abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and the Democrats won those voters by a margin of 73% to 25%. More than a quarter of voters nationwide said abortion was the single most important thing about their vote, and the Democrats won those voters by a margin of 76% to 23%. (Exit polls are a flawed measurement and final results are expected to be adjusted once all votes are in.)
In Nevada, the issue was even more in favor of Democrats: Two-thirds of voters said abortion should be legal most of the time, and Cortez Masto had a 68% to 29% margin of victory among those voters.
Even in Ohio, a state Graham cited as proof of his plan’s popularity, it’s clear that Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan took advantage of abortion rights in his ultimately unsuccessful race against Vance. A 58% majority of Ohio voters said abortion should be legal most of the time or always, and Ryan won those voters by a margin of 69% to 31%.
Ryan campaigned for abortion rights far less than most other Democrats, never airing a television commercial on the subject. His campaign instead targeted abortion rights advocates with a plethora of digital ads on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.
Anti-abortion rights groups have also pointed to the results in Ohio and the re-election of four Republican governors who had signed strict abortion restrictions — Brian Kemp of Georgia, Greg Abbott of Texas, Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Ron DeSantis of Florida — as evidence that their problem did not single-handedly destroy the GOP’s chances of a red wave. (Left unspoken in this analysis: incumbent governors rarely lose their re-election bids.)
In the long run, however, it is unlikely that Republicans will be able to abide by the relative political safety of a 15-week ban. Such a proposal would make fewer than 5% of U.S. abortions illegal, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, which may not be enough to satisfy social conservatives.