Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, former Vice President Mike Pence says abortion should be banned nationwide and is planning to focus on the issue behind the scenes in the coming weeks, according to advisers.
Former President Donald Trump, on the other hand, fears the ruling will hurt the GOP’s election chances, according to his advisers, despite hailing the ruling as a “victory for life” at a Saturday rally.
And, while some ambitious Republican governors have called for tighter restrictions in their states, other key figures in the party have avoided such ideas, strategists say it is unclear how abortion will reshape key races in future elections.
The court’s decision has exposed new schisms among potential Republican presidential candidates for 2024, providing early indications of the primary’s contours. The divergent reactions highlight the conundrum that Republicans face in the aftermath of a landmark court decision that energizes their base but may alienate other segments of the electorate.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion access, roughly half of all states are likely or certain to ban or restrict abortion without Roe. Battleground states like Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan will be crucial in 2024.
Responses from potential GOP 2024 candidates have been “all over the place,” according to Bob Heckman, a Republican political strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns and counts the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America among his clients.
Democrats, while united in their outrage at the court’s decision, are also divided on how to proceed. President Biden, who has announced his intention to run for reelection, has urged voters to channel their rage into votes this November, electing more congressional Democrats who can then codify abortion rights. Others, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has said he may run if Biden does not, are calling for more immediate action, such as the repeal of the Senate filibuster to allow Democrats to codify abortion rights.
However, there is a debate within the Republican Party about whether the ruling will come back to haunt candidates in future elections. According to one Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be more candid, the presidential primary may push Republican candidates further to the right on abortion, potentially hurting them in the general election.
Pence has taken the opposite stance, writing last week on Twitter that “we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.” Pence advisers say his firm stance on abortion could help him in conservative states like South Carolina, and one says his team is surprised that more candidates have not taken his stance.
Pence’s organization, Advancing American Freedom, shared a video highlighting that record on Friday: According to the video, Pence led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood while in Congress and signed “every pro-life bill that crossed his desk” as governor of Indiana.
But, according to Kochel, Trump’s message to voters about the Supreme Court decision remains simple: “You’re welcome.” He argued that Pence will never be able to take the kind of credit that Trump can, even though Trump has privately expressed concern about Republican fallout. “I think the more [Trump] hears himself getting praised, the more likely it is he leans into it,” said Kochel, who most recently worked on Jeb Bush’s presidential bid in 2016.
Many Republicans are hoping that the focus on abortion will subside. According to a person with knowledge of the event, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private gathering, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told donors that they should be less concerned about suburban women than some feared, arguing that they will ultimately care more about other issues such as rising gas prices, broader inflation, and coronavirus restrictions on schools. McDaniel stated that polling in recent weeks had not indicated that Republicans would pay a price for the ruling.