Republicans are ignoring voters who want abortion rights

Has anybody told Republicans that their anti-abortion measures are unpopular and failing all over the country, even in red states like Ohio?

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Deidra Reese of the Ohio Unity Coalition, celebrates the defeat of Issue 1 on Aug. 8 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio voters rejected a Republican-backed measure designed to make it tougher to pass abortion protections.

Deidra Reese of the Ohio Unity Coalition, celebrates the defeat of Issue 1 on Aug. 8 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio voters rejected a Republican-backed measure designed to make it tougher to pass abortion protections.

Jay LePrete/AP

“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”

That old chestnut has proven true in modern American elections more times than not. Since 1964, Ohio has chosen the winning president in every contest, whether Democrat or Republican — that is, except one. In 2020, Ohio voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden, by eight points.

A new ballot issue, voted on just this week, could be a bellwether of things to come in 2024 — or, it could be a blip. But you best believe the Republican candidates running for president will be paying attention. Or, rather, they should be.

On Tuesday night, Ohio voters shot down a GOP proposal, known as Issue 1, which would have raised the minimum threshold of votes needed to amend the state constitution from a simple majority up to 60%.

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This was both surprising and significant — it means that a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights is much more likely to pass in November, something Republicans were trying to thwart.

The amendment would essentially prohibit Ohio from intervening in a woman’s abortion, contraception, and fertility decisions, thus enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.

Ohio follows Kansas

Ohio’s resounding rejection of the GOP effort to make it easier to ban abortion echoes another state’s surprising rebel yell just last year. In August of 2022, Kansas voted against a constitutional amendment that would have declared abortion was not a right in that state, and would have given Kansas the power to prosecute people involved in abortions. The amendment was defeated by a whopping 18-point margin.

These two examples are perhaps anecdotal but no less significant. Ohio and Kansas are red states — Kansas voted for Trump 15 points over Biden in 2020, and Ohio voted for Trump twice, in 2016 and 2020.

But in Ohio, where the anti-abortion referendum failed, the loss is especially acute.

A USA Today and Suffolk University poll in July found that 58% of Ohio voters supported keeping abortion rights in the state constitution. That’s in a state that is more Christian than the rest of the country, whiter than the rest of the country, older than the rest of the country, and less educated than the rest of the country.

This should be a wake-up call for Republicans, who are aiming to strip away abortion access all over the country, even where that is an unpopular thing to do.

Earlier this year in Florida, flailing 2024 presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, signed into law a bill that banned abortions after six weeks, despite a majority of Florida voters opposing abortion bans. It’s earned DeSantis the ire of fellow Republicans, including South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who called it a “non-starter.”

In Texas, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a trigger law effectively banned all abortions except in the case of saving the life of the mother. Despite Texas being a reliably conservative state, 60% of voters there support access to abortion in all or most cases.

While most Americans still oppose abortion in the later months of pregnancy, support for legal abortion in the first three months shot to a record 69% in the wake of the Dobbs ruling.

Anti-abortion stand is risky for Republicans

The polls are clear, and have been since the inception of polling on abortion attitudes in America. Voters support legal abortion with some restrictions, and that hasn’t changed since 1975.

But has anybody told that to Republicans?

Do they notice or care that their anti-abortion measures are unpopular and failing all over the country, even in red states?

Do candidates running for office, including the presidency, have a memory of the not-too-distant past in 2022, where abortion proved to be a massive turnout driver in the midterms, and an issue that persuaded those coveted swing voters to pour out to the polls?

Apparently not.

Former Ambassador Nikki Haley has said she’d support as strict a bill as Congress could pass.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’d sign a federal 15-week abortion ban.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has said he favors a federal abortion ban with no exceptions.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott says he would “sign the most conservative pro-life legislation you can bring to my desk.”

If these are meant to be dog whistles to conservative voters, they’re having the opposite effect — alerting Democrats to the very real probability that a Republican president would limit abortion access even more than state legislatures already have.

It’s a risky strategy considering where the country is on abortion. And that is firmly with Democrats.

Ohio Republicans just learned that the hard way. When will the rest of the GOP?

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

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