Turns out the Republican Party is not embracing a more moderate platform after all.
Consider this week’s case study, abortion. Anti-choice legislation “remains a top priority for me and my colleagues,” majority leader Eric Cantor announced to a frozen crowd of 25,000 at the March for Life, an annual rally on the National Mall. Cantor said he’ll rush to hold a vote next week on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would deny abortion coverage to women insured through Medicaid, and could require the IRS to audit rape victims.
Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, paused the RNC’s annual meeting on Wednesday and arranged for bus transportation so members could attend the rally. Meanwhile, fifteen RNC members introduced a resolution urging Republican candidates to make anti-choice policies a prominent part of the GOP’s platform.
“The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to reject a strategy of silence on the abortion issue when candidates are attacked with ‘war on women’ rhetoric,” reads the resolution. Committee members will vote on that principle on Friday.
After voters punished anti-choice candidates in 2012 and 2013—most memorably Senate hopeful Todd Aiken, who said that in cases of “a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”—there was some reason to expect the GOP to talk less frequently and more quietly about abortion. Reince Priebus himself penned an autopsy of the 2012 elections in which he didn’t mention abortion explicitly but warned, “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”
Republicans are now signaling that they will reinvigorate anti-abortion messaging in the midterms. In a one-two punch designed to fire up both the religious right and anti-government conservatives, Republicans are harnessing anti-Obamacare furor to reframe the abortion debate, arguing that the healthcare law appropriates billions of taxpayer dollars for federally funded abortions and infringes on religious freedom to boot. This message is directed at boosting turnout from the base, particularly in conservative states where Democratic senators are facing tough re-election campaigns. The GOP will look to female candidates, in particular, to press an anti-abortion platform more forcefully, according to party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. Several outspoken abortion opponents have launched primary bids for Senate seats, including Karen Handel in Georgia, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Jo Rae Perkins in Oregon, and Nancy Mace, who is challenging Lindsey Graham for his seat in South Carolina.