Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Sunday in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the GOP needs to talk about the issue of abortion after its major losses in last week’s election showed that the issue remains a liability for the party heading into 2024.
More than a year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, abortion rights continued to show up as a winning issue for Democrats in last week’s elections in several states.
Voters in Ohio supported a state constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion rights by double digits. Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, an outspoken supporter of abortion rights who made the issue a key message of his campaign in a deep-red state, won re-election. Democrats in Virginia maintained their majority in the Senate and flipped the state House in a move that appears to push back on GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who advocated for a 15-week abortion ban as part of his campaign’s platform.
“NBC News is reporting that in the wake of Tuesday’s results, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans is calling on candidates to clearly oppose a national abortion ban in TV ads and speeches,” host Kristen Welker told McDaniel during the interview.
“I know you don’t want to weigh in, but just big picture, is that a smart strategy? Is that the right approach?” she asked.
McDaniel said she’s “not a policy person” and that the RNC will leave it up to legislators, senators and members of Congress to “stake their lane out,” but acknowledged that the party must address the issue of abortion rights going forward.
“Democrats are going to make it a national issue, though. And I do think we have to talk about this issue, because the Democrats will say, ‘We’re going to take it to the Senate and codify it,’” she said. “And so, I think there’s a lot of discussion to be had, but we can’t just say it’s a state’s issue and be done.”
Asked about whether she supports a 15-week limit on abortion as a policy for the Republican Party to get behind, McDaniel said: “It’s not my decision about federal or state” restrictions on abortion.
McDaniel noted that Democrats outspent Republicans on ads about abortion access, before reiterating that it’s an issue that the GOP needs to talk about.
“We have to talk about it, and you can’t hide in a corner and think abortion’s not going to be an issue,” she said. “This is what Democrats are running on, because they can’t run on crime, they can’t run on the border, they can’t run on fentanyl.”
“$350 million in 2022 was spent on this issue — we just saw it again in Ohio and Virginia,” she added. “There are lessons we have to take, and it’s going to be up to the candidates to go on TV and say it.”
After experiencing more significant losses last week, Republicans say it’s time to refine their message on abortion before they suffer more losses at the ballot box.
While Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have signaled that they intend to pin the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe on former President Donald Trump next year if he is the GOP nominee, Republican presidential candidates have taken different approaches to addressing the issue of abortion.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed a 15-week abortion ban into law in 2022, has said he would sign it into federal law if he is elected president. However, his campaign manager, James Uthmeier, told ABC News last week that it’s an “extreme hypothetical.”
“He is going to sign pro-life legislation, but he recognizes in the wake of the Dobbs decision that states will come down differently,” Uthmeier said. “And we as conservatives have to do a better job of messaging and working on the issue.”
Uthmeier added that Congress is “dysfunctional” and is unlikely to pass a bill with a 15-week abortion ban.
Although she has framed herself as anti-abortion, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has repeatedly said that she would like to see some “consensus” among Republicans on the issue.