After Abortion Losses, Pro-Life Groups Fear GOP Retreat

Happy Monday! Andrew’s catching the bus to New Hampshire today—podcast recommendations are welcome.

Up to Speed

  • Tim Scott is dropping out of the presidential race. The South Carolina senator acknowledged on Fox News Sunday evening that he has failed to catch on with Republican voters, telling an apparently shocked host Trey Gowdy that “I don’t think they’re saying ‘no,’ but I do think they’re saying ‘not now.’” Scott added that he does not plan to make an endorsement in the primary, where former President Donald Trump enjoys an overwhelming lead. He becomes the second major candidate to drop out, following former Vice President Mike Pence, who left the race last month.  
  • The news comes as some surprise—Scott’s war chest was not yet empty, although he’d been rapidly spending it down. But the writing had been on the wall for some time: Scott had failed to break out of the low single digits in polling, had been outshone on the debate stage and in surveys by fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, and was not guaranteed to qualify for the fourth GOP debate next month in Alabama. His Senate Republican coworkers, initially very optimistic about his candidacy, had in recent weeks struck a more mournful tone that he wasn’t breaking out. And his recent hard pivot to Iowa was widely seen as a desperate move: “It’s last gasp, Hail Mary territory and that’s the obvious message it sends,” veteran Iowa GOP strategist David Kochel told The Dispatch last week.
  • With government funding set to run out Friday night, House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing the same basic arithmetic problem that cost then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job just weeks ago: He needs the House to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid an economically and politically costly shutdown, but he’ll likely need to rely on at least some Democratic votes to do it. As an olive branch to the hard-right faction that likes short-term continuing resolutions least, Johnson has organized his proposal around a “laddered” mechanism backed by the House Freedom Caucus. Instead of funding the whole government at current levels for another short period of time, the laddered CR would break funding into two tranches, with one expiring January 19 and the other expiring February 2. 
  • Nikki Haley is planning a $10 million ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire as she moves to establish herself as the consensus alternative to former President Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination, the Associated Press reported Monday. The television blitz is set to begin the first week of December. Haley, a former South Carolina governor and ex-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, must get past Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if she is going to have a clear shot at Trump, the overwhelming frontrunner. Meanwhile, the super PAC supporting DeSantis, Never Back Down, has canceled advertising originally scheduled for November, shifting that television buy to January. The first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, is set for January 15.
  • Chris Christie traveled to Israel over the weekend. The former New Jersey governor toured sites that were the subject of the Hamas terrorists’ October 7 attack that targeted Israelis for torture, murder, and kidnapping, and which left more than 1,400 dead. Christie is the first Republican presidential contender to travel to Israel since the war began last month.
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger is running for Virginia governor in 2025 and will retire from the House next year, she announced Monday. The Democrat was first elected to Congress in 2018 when she flipped a Republican-leaning district anchored in suburban Richmond. Spanberger, a former CIA clandestine agent, was a driving force behind House Democrats’ 2019 decision to impeach then-President Donald Trump after it was discovered he threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless Kyiv provided him dirt on future President Joe Biden.

Pro-Lifers Fear GOP Turn to Center on Abortion

Former President Donald Trump at the Susan B. Anthony 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala at the National Building Museum on May 22, 2018, in Washington. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump at the Susan B. Anthony 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala at the National Building Museum on May 22, 2018, in Washington. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

When the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision ended nationwide legal abortion in June of 2022, pro-life groups prepared to go on the political attack. “An entirely new pro-life movement begins today,” SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser exulted in a statement. “We are ready to go on offense in every single one of these legislative bodies, in each statehouse and the White House.”

But in the wake of another round of devastating electoral losses for pro-lifers last week, Dannenfelser was more subdued: “The disappointing results in Ohio and Virginia are a reminder that human rights battles are not won overnight. Throughout history, great injustices have taken time and persistence to rectify.”

Last year, Democrats across the nation clung to the issue of abortion like an electoral life raft, preserving their Senate majority and minimizing their losses in the House. Meanwhile, Kentucky, Montana, and Kansas all failed to pass ballot measures that would have resulted in tighter abortion restrictions in their states. And last week, Ohio overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment legalizing abortion in the state, Kentucky’s Democratic governor won reelection on the strength of an abortion-access message, and Virginia Republicans fell short of recapturing the state legislature in an election where abortion was a flashpoint.

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