Former President Donald Trump is blaming pro-life Republicans for the dismal results of the 2022 midterm elections. While Trump is correct that too many Republicans didn’t have coherent rebuttals to Democratic abortion arguments after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, it was actually Trump and MAGA Republicans who lost the issue at the ballot box after they failed to win the crossover voters.
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” wrote Trump on Truth Social. “I was 233-20! It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters. Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again. Plus, Mitch stupid $’s!”
Trump is viewed as responsible by many Republican Party leaders and conservative commentators for the midterm losses, as candidates he endorsed were defeated in pivotal races across the country. Instead of taking responsibility for propping up bad candidates, however, Trump is putting the blame solely on Republican candidates who are staunchly pro-life.
Several prominent Trump-endorsed candidates, from Pennsylvania’s Dr. Mehmet Oz to Georgia’s Herschel Walker, could not articulate a pro-life message that resonated with independent voters. Oz has expressed pro-choice views in the past but claimed during his campaign that he believes abortion is murder because life begins at conception. Walker is widely considered a hypocrite as, despite running on a pro-life platform, he has been accused of paying for abortions, an allegation he has denied.
Republicans have a Trump problem, not an abortion problem.
Venture capitalist Blake Masters, another Trump acolyte, won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Arizona. During the primary, Masters supported fetal personhood and laws protecting life from the moment of conception. However, after securing the nomination and the endorsement of the National Right to Life, Masters backtracked on his abortion stance, claiming to only support the Hyde Amendment and the banning of late-term abortions. His stoic campaign, questionable past, and flip-flopping on abortion ensured that Republicans would not take over the Senate.
By contrast, Republican governors who signed pro-life legislation won in landslide victories. For instance, Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. While many pro-choice advocates claimed that this would come back to bite him, DeSantis won a historic reelection by more than 20 points.
In Ohio, too, Mike DeWine signed a six-week abortion ban known as the “heartbeat bill” in 2019. DeWine’s liberal detractors hoped that this would make his reelection a toss-up, considering that a state judge blocked that law from going into effect before the election. Yet, despite that, DeWine won reelection by 25 points.
Similarly, Georgia’s Brian Kemp signed a heartbeat bill restricting abortions after six weeks. Many anticipated that this would give Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams a boost in the polls as she attempted, a second time, to unseat Kemp. Instead, Kemp won in a blowout election of 8 points, a significant victory considering that Georgia has been trending purple the last couple of election cycles.
Finally, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire signed a law banning abortion after 24 weeks in 2021. Sununu is not known for being very socially conservative, but he proudly pushed his record on a national podcast, claiming that he was the first Republican governor to sign a ban “in decades.” A Democratic Party spokesperson attacked Sununu for pandering to “the far-right, anti-choice extremists” in the Republican Party. Yet, Sununu won by 16 points with 57 percent of the vote in a state that both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden won in 2016 and 2020, respectively.
A Washington Post analysis of the 2020 midterms found that Trump-endorsed candidates ran 5 points behind the margin while traditional Republicans ran 2 points ahead of the margin. Republicans won the popular vote in national House races, exceeding Trump’s 2020 vote in safe Republican House districts. Trump’s approval rating at the end of 2022 was 31 percent, primarily due to his attacking Republicans and peddling his stolen-election conspiracy. Republicans have a Trump problem, not an abortion problem.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national pro-life group, recently released a statement regarding expectations for 2024 Republican presidential candidates: “The approach to winning on abortion in federal races, proven for a decade is this: state clearly the ambitious consensus pro-life position and contrast that with the extreme view of Democrat opponents.”
Since 1976, the GOP has had a pro-life plank on its platform, from Gerald Ford’s nomination to Trump’s. Trump’s abortion remark becomes even more bizarre when you consider that he appointed three Supreme Court justices who all voted to overturn Roe — what is considered, by many, his most conservative accomplishment yet.
For Republicans to win on the pro-life issue, they must nominate candidates of good character who act with prudence. And, most of all, they must detach themselves from Trump and his ilk in order to win over the vital votes of the independents and moderates.
Alex Adkins is a graduate of Benedictine University who has written for American Thinker, the Federalist, and the Western Journal.