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Asa Hutchinson during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off in Clive, Iowa
Asa Hutchinson during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off in Clive, Iowa, on April 22, 2023.Charlie Neibergall / AP

Eyes on 2024: GOP wants to take abortion 'head on'

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Sunday that her party has to address abortion "head on," acknowledging it was a "big issue" in some key midterm races.

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As Republicans risk being hampered by the issue of abortion rights for another election cycle, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has a message for her party: “You have to address [the issue] head on.”

That’s what she said Sunday on Fox News, adding that Republicans should put Democrats “on the defensive” on abortion, highlighting Democratic support for abortion access later in pregnancy. (The conversation came up as McDaniel was discussing reporting on the party’s 2022 autopsy report, which isn’t expected to be publicly released, and she noted that “abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.”)

There have been few specifics among Republican presidential hopefuls on the issue, and the ones that have engaged “head on” have largely supported significant restrictions, or a national ban. 

 On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” businessman Vivek Ramaswamy called himself “unapologetically pro-life,” and called abortion “a form of murder.” The GOP presidential hopeful says he wants the states to decide on abortion restrictions, but has said he would back a ban at around six weeks if he was a governor (with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother).  

And also on Sunday, CNN asked former Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson whether he would sign a “full ban on abortion without restrictions” as president. He said he would, while pushing for “exceptions of the life of the mother and the cases of rape and incest.” That shift comes after Hutchinson had repeatedly reiterated, as recently as last month, that the decision “ought to come back to” the states. 

But as Republicans continue to embrace their party’s right flank on abortion rights, don’t forget the recent NBC News poll found that Democrats have intensity on their side when it comes to the issue. 

Democrats and women are more likely to rate abortion rights as an “extremely important” issue to them, constituencies who want abortion to largely be legal. Overall, 58% of Americans say they believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time. 

In other campaign news…

Mark your calendars: Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said at a Sunday night town hall event that he has a major announcement coming on May 22, NBC News’ Ali Vitali reports. Scott launched a presidential campaign exploratory committee in mid-April. 

Biden’s challenges: Biden’s GOP rivals were also quick to criticize the president’s age and competency as they jockeyed for primary voter support, the Washington Post reports. The New York Times explores the challenge facing Biden within his own party – energizing Black voters, who are crucial to his coalition, but some of whom are frustrated by slow progress on a range of issues. And the Associated Press looks at the tall task Biden has keeping together the broad coalition that elected him the first time. 

Trump’s travel trolling: Former President Donald Trump is planning to return to Iowa on May 13, the same day that Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to be in the Hawkeye State, per the Associated Press.

Getting nervous: Some of DeSantis’ allies are concerned he is in trouble even before officially jumping into the presidential race, but DeSantis’ team is not planning to shake up strategy or messaging, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki and Matt Dixon report. It appears DeSantis has one less thing to worry about. On Friday, Florida legislators passed a measure that would allow him to run for president without resigning his post as governor, sending the bill to DeSantis’ desk.

Not backing down: A pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, placed a nearly $3.3 million ad buy, reserving time on TV and radio, per AdImpact. The buy includes national airtime as well as time in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And while the group has mainly targeted Trump, Politico reports that it recently launched a digital ad jabbing former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.  

Pence’s people: Former Vice President Mike Pence has been “ramping up talks with consultants and activists in early nominating states,” Politico reports, citing a senior Pence adviser. He is also expected to get a boost from a new super PAC, which is looking to launch later this month. 

Knowing RFK, Jr.: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a vocal vaccine opponent, has support from far-right figures including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald reports. The Democratic presidential contender also said over the weekend that he is “against people participating in women’s sports who are biologically male,” as states bar transgender women from participating in women’s sports. 

That was fast: The conservative Club for Growth Action wasted no time jumping into the GOP Senate primary in West Virginia, launching a TV ad targeting Gov. Jim Justice shortly after Justice jumped into the race. The Club is backing GOP Rep. Alex Mooney in the primary. 

Sinema speaks: The Atlantic and New York Times Magazine are out with new deep dives into Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., whose political future could weigh heavily on the Democrats’ fortunes as they look to hold the Senate. 

No from AOC: A spokesperson for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told Politico that the high-profile congresswoman is “not planning” to launch a primary challenge against Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. 

Watch this space: The North Carolina Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans, reversed two previous rulings on redistricting and a voter I.D. law made under Democratic control, NBC News’ Jane Timm reports. The decision allows the state legislature to redraw the state’s congressional map, potentially giving Republicans a greater advantage in the fight for the House.