Republicans are rethinking their message on abortion after a lackluster performance in the midterm elections in which Democrats successfully wielded the issue with their base and swing voters.
While the GOP primarily focused its messaging efforts on inflation, crime, and the southern border crisis, exit polls revealed that abortion was an important priority for many voters.
According to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, some of the party's losses can be attributed to candidates ignoring the issue.
"It was probably a bigger factor than a lot of people thought," McDaniel said during an interview with radio show host John Catsimatidis earlier this month. "We've got to get conversant on that. We can't just do an ostrich method and pretend that it doesn't exist when Democrats are spending $30 million on that message."
In exit polling, 27% of voters identified abortion as being the deciding issue for their vote; only inflation came in ahead at 31%, according to The Hill.
Abortion played a crucial role in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where Sen.-elect John Fetterman pushed the issue strongly, especially in the Philadelphia suburbs. Among Pennsylvania voters, 36% said abortion was their most important issue, compared to 29% who said inflation.
Supporters of abortion access also claimed victory on a number of ballot measures in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont, according to The Hill.
The wins followed the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade in June, which returned the question of abortion back to the states to decide. Democrats called on voters to protect abortion rights after Republicans in a number of states moved to restrict or ban the procedure following the court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
"The Dobbs decision was not unlike a political earthquake," Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Hill. "Republicans, in my opinion, could have had a much better response."
An RNC polling memo from September suggested the difficulty Republicans could face because of the Dobbs decision, with 80% of those polled saying they were "not pleased" with the ruling.
The memo also encouraged Republicans to adopt a less hard-line stance on the issue to appeal to these voters.
"When comparing a Democrat who supports abortion at any time for any reason, against a Pro-life Republican who supports exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, the GOP candidate holds a +22 percent advantage," the memo advised.
In a post-election appearance on "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," McDaniel discussed the wariness among political strategists to advise their candidates to address the issue directly.
"We put out a memo, we said, 'Address this, take this head-on,'" McDaniel said. "How many candidate consultants said, 'We don't want to talk about it, it's not polling well.' But the reality is, when you're putting $30 million behind something, it doesn't matter how it's polling, it's an issue."
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