(The Daily Signal) — Former President Donald Trump, whose presidency arguably brought about the overturn of Roe v. Wade, is drawing criticism for blaming midterm losses on hardcore pro-life Republicans.
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms,” the former president said in a TruthSocial post on Sunday. “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,” Trump added, “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!”
As president, Trump appointed Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, all of whom voted with the majority in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
The former president’s remarks quickly sparked a backlash as conservatives pointed out that Trump, months after a massive pro-life win, was seemingly attacking a group of voters who staunchly supported him until now.
“Pro-lifers were an indispensable part of the Trump coalition that came out in droves because of his bold pro-life message in 2016,” said Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation).
“Candidates who followed that example in 2020 won, those who ran away, like [Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate] Dr. [Mehmet] Oz, lost,” he added. “Whoever is now advising President Trump to the contrary on life issues should be fired immediately.”
“Think how stupid it is for Trump to run left on the pro-life issue,” said The Spectator’s Ben Domenech. “This is the biggest win of his presidency. Huge vested goodwill from pro-lifers. And what does he do? Call them quislings and say they’re too radical! Very dumb.”
Democratic California Rep. Ted Lieu accused Trump of never believing that life began at conception.
“He was using the abortion issue only to gain power,” Lieu claimed. “Now that you’re no longer useful to him, Trump blames you for losing and wants you to shut up. If you still support him, you are disrespecting yourself.”
Trump blames the midterms on hard core pro-lifers pic.twitter.com/oTZrFIRlIp
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) January 1, 2023
National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru called Trump’s remark “a pile of nonsense atop a kernel of truth,” noting that while some Republican candidates took the abortion position described by Trump (such as Michigan candidate Tudor Dixon), all of these candidates “had Trump’s backing” — undercutting “his ability to run away from the defeats of 2022.”
“He chose candidates based on their loyalty to him, not their ability to win their races,” wrote Ponnuru. “His loyalty test tended to screen out candidates who were better suited to win competitive states (e.g., Doug Ducey in Arizona, who backs the standard exceptions to an abortion ban).”
The former president’s musings prompted Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America to issue a statement noting that the “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.”
“We look forward to hearing that position fully articulated by Mr. Trump and all presidential candidates,” the organization said, adding, “There was ALSO a profound midterm lesson for future federal candidates: those who adopted the Ostrich Strategy on abortion lose.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence applauded this stance, tweeting, “Well said!” on Monday evening.
The pro-life organization’s statement echoes its messaging from November. In a memo following election night, the organization said: “There’s no doubt that the Dobbs decision was a political earthquake — creating a unique opportunity for Democrats to motivate their depressed base and giving them the best opportunity they’ll ever have to use the issue politically.”
“The key takeaway from last night is clear,” the memo continued, “GOP pro-life candidates win in competitive races if they define their opponents as abortion extremists who support abortion on demand with NO limits, and contrast that with a clearly defined pro-life position centered around consensus such as pain-capable or heartbeat limits.”
The 2024 election must be about the GOP going on offense on abortion, the SBA Pro-Life America memo said.
This includes “exposing President Biden and the Democrats as the true extremists who don’t support ANY limits on abortion and contrasting it with a strong GOP pro-life agenda centered on national minimum protections for the unborn child and mothers either at the point in which they feel pain or when their heartbeat can be detected.”
“GOP primary candidates may have different views on what is achievable, and we welcome that debate — and even more so welcome the debate in the general election setting.”
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser pointed to Oz as an example of a candidate who failed, in part, due to his refusal to take a position on abortion in a “mature, deliberative, and principled manner,” during a press call following the midterms.
“Candidates who conversely adopt the ostrich strategy, which is putting their head in the sand and hoping the reality goes away, or the possum strategy, which is to pretend dead and hope nobody notices your body is lying there, they lose,” Dannenfelser said. “And I think that our candidate in Pennsylvania is an example.”
“We win when we take a position that is popular and clear and confident, and we contrast that position with our opponents,” Dannenfelser added at the time. “And in this environment, that is a contrast that wins because our popular position over and over contrasts well with 100% abortion up until the end, paid for by taxpayers.”