Columbus, Ohio — Republicans suffered their latest electoral defeat on an abortion-related vote, this time on an Ohio referendum on Tuesday, prompting party moderators to speak to ABC. News says the same thing: Republicans have yet to figure out how to talk about the issue.
The conservative-led effort in Ohio will raise the threshold for future changes to the state constitution from 50% plus one to 60%. It failed by a margin of 14 points.
Citing a leading Republican in the state who said the change was an attempt to limit future abortions, opponents of the effort have linked concluding the vote with an election question later this year about whether abortion protections should be added to the Ohio constitution.
The failure has resulted in similar results since last year regarding abortion in other states, including those traditionally leaning Republican like Kansas and Kentucky.
With Ohio in particular, some strategists say there could be obstacles to the nature of the proposal.
“The way this initiative was written in the first place is probably not the best way to go about it,” said an experienced GOP strategist in Ohio.
“Voters fluctuate and a lot of Republicans don’t like the idea of changing the state constitution. So if you’re on a ballot initiative and you’re still undecided, then you’re going to be undecided. wrong to take the side of ‘not making’ any changes.’ … I also think people forget this a lot: If you poll, about 30% of Republicans nationwide identify as pro-choice of choice. [favoring abortion access]” said the strategist.
Abortion is said to have played a notable role in the 2022 midterm elections — the first election after the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Roe v. Wade — and polls show voters in several states are concerned about abortion.
In those elections, Democrats limited their defeat in the House and expanded their majority in the Senate despite widespread expectations of a red wave caused by unpopular President Joe Biden and concern. about inflation.
Critics said Tuesday’s ballot measure was held during a particularly hasty election in August to avoid the abortion rights amendment recently added to the November election.
“We knew that a special election was held before the November vote because our opposition had the support… And they wanted to get ahead of us,” said Lauren Blauvelt, co. The president of the Ohio Society for Reproductive Rights, the umbrella organization that leads the effort to include access to abortion in the Ohio Constitution, told ABC News at an election night victory party in Columbus.
Democrats knew ahead of Tuesday’s vote that a win for their anti-voting initiative coalition would add to the pile of wins they’ve already won in the fight to boost the odds. access to abortion through referendums. (Anti-abortion advocates counter that they have also seen the state’s success, with governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia advocating major restrictions and remaining popular.)
“Kansas has been the focal point of the anti-abortion movement in this country for many years. But that amendment [winning] Last year gave me hope. Why? Because the people there have increased. It’s not just Democrats. It’s not just independent. It’s not even just moderate Republicans,” Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Ken Martin said at a campaign kick-off in Dublin, Ohio on Saturday.
Nearly 700,000 Ohioans cast their ballots early, in person or by mail, nearly five times the number of voters who voted in last August’s primaries and far ahead of the 288,700 who voted early. for the May 2022 primaries, when the U.S. Senate and Senate compete. The governor’s race was on the ballot.
Voter turnout is close to that of some recent general elections. Unofficial election results from Tuesday show voter turnout of 38.54% statewide, a mere 14% drop in in-person voting on Election Day in the November general election. 2022.
Republican activists who spoke to ABC News said the Ohio election highlighted the risk of abortion remaining an issue for Republican aspirations to win back the White House and Senate. .
Initially, supporters of the Ohio referendum saw their campaign as an attempt to protect the state constitution from outside special interests who could use voting methods to influence the state’s constitution. make unacceptable changes to public policy.
But opponents have campaigned their own around the misleading message that Tuesday’s vote is a proxy for access to abortion.
“You need to get up early and define the problem. The other side has woken up with more than three weeks of advertising saturation, identifying the problem before the ‘yes’ side has even woken up,” said one strategist. Ohio’s GOP said. “And you look at the early voting results, the dice were rolled.”
The referendum comes amid the Republican presidential primaries, with White House hopes within the party delivering their own message on abortion.
Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the two leading contenders in the race so far, largely avoided answering when asked what kind of abortion law they would sign into law if they became president. system.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has said he will fight for the 15-week ban at the federal level and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley earlier this year delivered a major policy speech on the issue only to call for “compassion”.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is the strictest of his policies, citing his longstanding commitment to limiting abortion as part of the Christian faith and saying he will ban the procedure immediately. even in cases of unviable pregnancies.
Pence is the only GOP candidate for president to call for a vote on the pre-election ballot measure, releasing a video Tuesday morning in which he said a “yes” vote would “save” Ohio.”
In addition to the limited time limit on abortion during pregnancy, Republicans around the country also found little consensus on exceptions for rape, incest and to save lives. of the mother.
But the results in Ohio and elsewhere are leading some in the party to say there is too much electoral risk in backing the ban too harshly.
“The six-week ban on abortion at the federal level is a total failure. It’s partly down to how you announce it,” said the Ohio-based strategist. “What about the national minimum standard of 15 weeks with three exceptions? That doesn’t sound as scary as the abortion ban. I don’t think you’re going to be halfway between reaching about 15 weeks with reasonable exceptions.”
Anti-abortion groups, influential in the Republican establishment, have repeatedly and publicly pressed candidates to support a strict stance, saying that anti-abortion voters support that pledge. .
After Tuesday’s vote, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said in a statement that “this is a sad day for Ohio and a warning to pro-life states across the nation. .” The group added, “A broad coalition of passionate pro-life Ohioans have come together … to try to take victory from defeat.”
Conservative activists say the lack of flexibility in candidates’ policies could make some races harder to win.
“In more competitive counties, you often have Republican candidates whose views on abortion are not as tough as those of rural or right-to-life organizations. And that’s why at Why that issue in different places should be litigated differently by those candidates,” said Ohio GOP strategist Nick Everhart.
Until that happens, however, Republicans who spoke to ABC News have forecast more setbacks — including in November, when Ohioans will vote on additional measures. abortion protection in the state constitution.
“While it may be possible to keep this campaign out of the way in the fall, I think the message wise, some things turn out to be contradictory,” Everhart said. “I think what we’ve seen is really an early version of what the outcome in the fall election will look like on this particular issue in Ohio.”