CV NEWS FEED // Democrats lost less ground than expected in Tuesday’s midterms when a much-anticipated “red wave” failed to materialize. Legacy media are touting the results as a pro-abortion backlash against the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision, but other voices reject that analysis.
Putting it in Perspective
“Dobbs is less than a year old (If Dobbs was a baby, California just voted to kill it.),” commented CatholicVote Director of Government Affairs Tom McClusky.
Pro-lifers, like everyone else, are just getting their sea legs under this new dynamic and this election was a lesson in how to do it right (I’m looking at you, Florida) and how to do it wrong.
Tommy Valentine, Director of the Catholic Accountability Project, agreed that it’s too soon to blame Dobbs for this week’s results: “I know people are disappointed about how Tuesday went, but in the scheme of history, this is a big victory for the pro-life movement. “
Other analysts agree, for a variety of reasons, that Tuesday’s results do not prove abortion restrictions are a losing platform for the GOP.
Valentine noted that Dobbs posed a defining moment in American history.
The Dobbs decision was a major sociocultural shift which happened overnight. People tend to react in the opposite direction when that happens, and the Democrats were banking on that. They wanted a mandate from the people for their extreme position. The fact that the pro-life party is almost certain to take back the House and has a good chance of retaking the Senate in the aftermath of the decision is a huge deal, and history will take note.
Betting on Abortion
Democrats spent $214 million on abortion-related ads in October alone – over half of their overall election spending. CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cilliza went on the record seven days prior to the election suggesting that the Democratic Party’s abortion gambit could prove to be a losing bet.
The results, however, are mixed. Pro-life advocates lost big on ballot initiatives in California, Michigan, Vermont, Montana, and Kentucky. But candidates with solid pro-life records, including Republicans Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida, won handily.
“Anyone arguing abortion is winning is missing what happened,” Stephen Billy of SBA Pro-Life America told the Catholic News Agency. “We had strong pro-life candidates at the federal and state level win because they seized on life as a winning issue and exposed the extreme taxpayer-funded abortion until birth policy of their opponents.”
Some conservatives have even argued that, far from a public repudiation of Dobbs, Tuesday’s election results represent GOP leaders’ continued tendency to run from family issues.
The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro pointed to a combination of candidate quality and lackluster GOP leadership in his analysis of the midterm results. He noted that “the Republican leadership class, paralyzed by the Trump phenomenon, failed to provide any leadership at all… except for DeSantis, who was a leader, an excellent candidate, and an organizer of his own party, leading to a Florida red tsunami.”
DeSantis ran on a solidly pro-life, pro-family platform, and won a second term as governor of Florida by over 20 percentage points.
Former President Donald Trump made headlines with his endorsements of 330 candidates, including Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona. His effectiveness as “kingmaker,” however, is now in question after many of his endorsees failed at the ballot box.
Candidate Quality Matters
Alexandra DeSanctis at National Review argues that “the problem isn’t abortion; it’s the candidates.”
Tiana Lowe at Restoring America echoed the frustration: “Neither DeSantis nor Rubio ran away from the culture wars or tough talk that have taken over the post-Trump Republican Party. Rather, candidate quality is the issue.”
She points to GOP neophytes Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker in particular, but “candidate quality” has also been applied to Blake Masters in Arizona and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire.
Months before the election, Senator Mitch McConnell made headlines when he suggested GOP losses would come down to “candidate quality.” The phrase caught on, and — except in the case of victorious newcomer J.D. Vance in Ohio — has been largely predictive of the losses seen this week.
GOP Must Rethink Messaging
But not all GOP candidates who suffered underwhelming victories or decisive losses were “weak” by that metric.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was polling well in Arizona in the leadup to Tuesday’s election, but the race is still a toss-up. Lee Zeldin in New York had pulled into contention in late polls, but lost handily to non-elected incumbent Kathy Hochul.
DeSanctis then points to another factor that she thinks explains pro-life setbacks both on ballot initiatives such as Michigan’s Prop 3 and in races for office at the local, state, and federal levels.
“We need to recognize that voters are regularly lied to about abortion policy, and Republicans don’t do enough to counter those lies,” she stated:
Democratic politicians wholeheartedly reject incrementalism and continue to embrace abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, a policy that only 10 percent of Americans and 20 percent of their own voters support. If the GOP isn’t appealing enough on the issue, it is because of the disconnect between the parties’ positions on abortion and what voters believe those positions to be.
SBA’s Stephen Billy agrees: “Going forward, we have to do better at using our winning strategy and using it to fight back against the millions of dollars Big Abortion puts into ballot initiatives to cause confusion and hide their extreme policy. When the voters see the abortion industry pushing abortion on demand, they reject it — and if we focus on exposing that extreme policy we will win.”
Valentine agreed that pro-lifers should be looking forward: “I heard a certain political figure on TV today liken this election to the Super Bowl. She’s wrong. For the pro-life movement, this is not a one-and-done fight. It’s a long term battle. With the Dobbs decision, we won the pennant. Now we’re in the World Series, it’s going the full seven games, and we’re in Game 1. “