Republicans largely stay away from the issue of abortion in their ads. But not all.


Few Republican candidates want to talk about abortion in their campaigns, especially in their expensive paid TV or digital ads.

But the few who are tackling the issue do so with a familiar message: We’re not the extremists, we’re the Democrats.

It’s a theme that plays out across the country, from gubernatorial contests to House and Senate races. While most attack ads from the GOP focus on issues like the economy, the border and crime, some Republicans have sought to counter Democratic messages on abortion rights, hoping to narrowing what has become a motivating issue for Democrats since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

This can be a difficult case to defend. After the Supreme Court ruling ended federal abortion protections, a series of state-enacted abortion restrictions went into effect, some of which outright ban abortion. These laws, coupled with decades of Republican anti-abortion advocacy, have put the party on the defensive, as polls show abortion-rights supporters from all political walks of life are energized by the issue and nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the High Court’s decision.

In the face of Democratic attacks, some Republicans in blue or swing states say it’s Democrats — many of whom support minimal, if any, restrictions on abortion — who are out of step with what Americans think about abortion. ‘abortion. Democrats argue, however, that this is an issue that should be dealt with between patients and their doctors, not politicians.

Zach Nunn, the Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne in Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, boasted in a recent ad how “most Iowans support common sense limits on abortion” but that his opponent “votes for the most extreme abortion laws in the world”. Axne ran ads attacking Nunn for raising her hand during a GOP primary debate when candidates were asked if they supported a policy banning “all abortions” with “no exceptions.”

Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate for the Nevada Senate, launched an ad last month pushing back against criticism of his stance on abortion.

“Democratic politicians have done incredible damage to America, ruining our economy, causing chaos on our border, increasing crime in our cities. They have changed our lives. But one thing hasn’t changed: abortion in Nevada,” the spot reads.

Laxalt, who before the Supreme Court decision called the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision a “joke,” wrote in an August op-ed that abortion should be decided at the state level. He said it was “a lie that I would support a federal ban on abortion as a U.S. senator,” but noted that he would support a possible state referendum banning abortion after 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Her opponent, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, runs an ad saying she “will always fight for women’s right to make our own health decisions,” while “Adam Laxalt won’t.”

Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley in Washington state ran several ads expressing her opposition to a federal ban. “Patty Murray has spent millions portraying me as an extremist,” Smiley says of the longtime Democratic senator in one of her spots. “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal ban on abortion.”

Shortly after Roe’s overthrow, Murray began running a direct-to-camera ad, in which she said, “It’s a horrifying reality: extreme politicians across our country, now in charge of the most private decisions in health care.

In September, Democratic campaigns and outside groups spent more than $70 million running 285 unique abortion ads, according to tracker AdImpact. Republicans, by comparison, spent just $6 million on 23 unique abortion ads during the same period.

These numbers are even more dramatic since the Supreme Court‘s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June. Democrats have run more than 470 unique abortion ads since then, spending more than $130 million, while Republicans have spent $16 million running about 100 ads.

Republican groups, including the Republican National Senate Committee, have urged their candidates not to allow their opponents to define them on abortion, but also not to fight the election on that issue alone.

“The Democratic position is extreme and strident, our position should be based on compassion and reason,” read an NRSC memo sent to GOP campaigns in the Senate following the Dobbs ruling. The group said candidates should “call out Democrats” who “have extreme views on abortion that aren’t mainstream.”

This is exemplified by how Joe O’Dea, the Republican Senate candidate from Colorado, addressed the issue in his race against Democratic Senator Michael Bennet in a blue-leaning state.

In a recent ad, the first-time candidate and businessman touted his outsider credentials – “I’m an outsider, not a politician” – and his support for abortion in early pregnancy – “During the first five months should be a woman’s decision between herself and her doctor.

The ad also featured his daughter, who called her father “a different Republican” and noted that he “supports a woman’s right to choose.”

O’Dea also hit out at Bennet for focusing on abortion, suggesting that in doing so he is “not talking” about issues such as crime and inflation.

It’s a fine line to walk for the Republican. Although O’Dea took a more moderate stance on abortion, Bennet attacked him in an August spot featuring Colorado women expressing fear of the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. The spot also noted O’Dea’s past remarks that he voted to affirm the conservative justices who decided the Dobbs case.

“It makes the race for the Senate even more important,” says one woman in the ad.

(O’Dea also said he would have voted for Obama nominee Elena Kagan, a liberal judge who dissented in the Dobbs decision because he wants to end the “blood sport” over the confirmation process. of the Supreme Court.)

“It’s not an issue you want to talk about,” Doug Heye, a longtime Republican strategist and former communications director for the Republican National Committee, said of abortion. “Not necessarily because you don’t want to talk about this issue, but because you have three issues to hammer Democrats on — crime, the economy, the border — that should be our message all day, every day. ”

Heye added, “Anything that’s not those three issues, you’re off message.”

A Republican agent who has worked on home runs said the decision to run ads on an issue like abortion is simple.

“If it’s an issue in the district and it shows up in your poll, speak up. If it’s not an issue that shows up in your poll, talk about issues like the economy that are more beneficial to you,” the agent said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s introduction of a bill last month that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy has complicated matters for some GOP candidates. The Republican from South Carolina, who is not eligible for re-election this year, introduced the bill because he didn’t think sidestepping worked for Republicans and wanted to arm them with an actual policy proposal, according to a source close to the thinking of the senator. But the move reinforced the Democratic message and forced Republicans to decide whether they thought the issue should be left to the states, as many have said since Roe’s overturn, or supported a federal ban.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear: This is a Raleigh decision, not a Washington decision,” North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Ted Budd said in a local interview. in September.

But soon after making the point, the congressman co-sponsored the House companion bill to Graham’s proposal, which would leave elected officials in Washington, not North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, decide how to regulate abortion.

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