For Republicans, this off-year election was anything but successful.
The results in gubernatorial and legislative showdowns as well as in some high-profile referendums have given Democrats a big dose of adrenaline while potentially serving as a warning sign for the GOP eyeing a 2024 run for the presidency and control of Congress.
Clearly hurting Republicans for the second year in a row at the polls was the combustible issue of legal abortion.
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“We have to talk about abortion,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has said since the election results came in this month.
McDaniel said GOP candidates “don’t respond to Democrats’ lies on abortion. We have to come out and say loudly where we stand.”
This month’s election results were the latest in a string of statewide victories for abortion rights since the blockbuster move last year by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the nearly half-century-old landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which allowed it to be legalized. Abortions nationwide.
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The decision brought the contentious issue back to the states. This has forced Republicans to do a great deal of defending in elections across the country. The almost entirely “pro-life” party has had to contend with an electorate in which a majority of Americans support at least some form of abortion access.
Democrats have made abortion a key part of their messaging in the gubernatorial showdown in Kentucky, in legislative contests in Virginia, in the Supreme Court race in Pennsylvania, and in the Ohio referendum on legalizing abortion rights. Democrats achieved victories in all of these states.
But veteran Republican strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who masterminded former President George W. Bush’s two White House victories and served as his chief political adviser in the White House, says the impact of abortion on this month’s election is exaggerated.
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“Abortion may have helped Democrats at times, but this issue is not a silver bullet,” Rove wrote last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Pointing out President Biden’s political weaknesses, Rove said that “as Virginia has shown, as long as Mr. Biden is the face of the party, pro-life candidates can make gains on the Democratic stage if they carefully position the abortion issue.” “.
But Democrats view the abortion issue as an ongoing “mobilization” factor to energize their base and entice swing or moderate voters to move forward.
Veteran strategist and Democratic National Committee member Maria Cardona pointed to last year’s midterm elections, in which Democrats outperformed, and told Fox News that the 2023 results “were similar to what happened in 2022 when everyone was expecting a red wave.”
Looking ahead to next year’s election, Cardona predicted that abortion “will continue to be an incredibly mobilizing issue.”
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David Kuchel, a longtime GOP strategist, noted that abortion remains a “terrible problem” for Republicans.
“They are not keeping up with the country’s position” on the issue, he said.
A veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns in Iowa, Kuchel acknowledged that Republicans “are not going to win on abortion” and urged GOP candidates to “fight where they can win — on the economy, on foreign policy, on competence.”
Speaking to Fox News Digital and other news organizations the night after this month’s election, McDaniel said Republicans need to more forcefully push back against Democrats’ attacks on their stance on abortion.
She said: “If there is a lie against you with $30 million behind it, and you do not respond to it, then that lie becomes the truth. This is the rules of the game that the Democrats play, and our candidates must respond on television.”
“As a suburban woman who leads the party, we have to talk about abortion,” McDaniel added. “If we don’t get on TV and define ourselves on this issue and allow Democrats to do it for us, that’s a losing strategy.”
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more in the Fox News Digital Election Center.