How Anti-Choice Republicans Overplayed Their Hand

Guess how Democrats kept control of the Senate? On the strength of women voters concerned about rabidly anti-choice candidates. But there's a catch.

There's abundant evidence that when it came to the Senate, Republicans overplayed their hand by nominating so many candidates that opposed abortion in all circumstances.

Take the close race in Colorado, which we spent a lot of time looking at. Everyone thought Michael Bennet was a long shot to keep the seat he'd been appointed to, but pointing out Republican Ken Buck's position on choice did the truth. (And the organizing around the extreme Personhood campaign in the same state couldn't have hurt in that department, either.)

Buck, who was also pummeled for declining to prosecute a rape case where the perpetrator confessed, said as much himself:

Buck told the Denver Post this week that social issues were a key reason for his defeat, explaining: "It was part of their effort to focus more on their version of Ken Buck rather than the issues that I thought most voters were concerned about. I don't know that there's any way to avoid it; I wasn't going to derail my message to have an election decided on abortion, or any social issue, for that matter."

Too bad for him he didn't get to control what voters decided on. Then, of course, there's Sharron "lemons into lemonade" Angle. Running against her in Nevada, Harry Reid won women voters by eleven percentage points. The anti-abortion candidates Carly Fiorina, Christine O'Donnell, and Dino Rossi all fell to pro-choice Democrats. Deirdre Schifeling, political director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told Politico, "Candidates' positions on choice do serve a signaling function, in terms of the kind of person they are and if they are standing up for women or not."

The implication overall is that Democrats shouldn't be afraid of touting their pro-choice bonafides, despite the fact that, as Politico notes, "the strategy ran counter to the one that enabled the party to broaden the political map in 2006 and 2008, when Democrats thrived by running candidates whose positions on abortion were closely attuned to the socially conservative areas where they sought office."

And yet. None of this is true in the House, where that past Democratic strategy really made a difference. There, we have five new members who oppose abortion in any instance. The Center For Reproductive Rights counted at least 48 new House members who were anti-choice. There are obvious structural reasons why that's the case in Congressional district races as opposed to state-wide runs.

It's enough to make you less than optimistic that Democrats will be racing to protect choice once the election's over. But every reminder that a significant chunk of women voters care about autonomy over our own bodies, and every vote for candidates that respect that, matters.

Abortion Was Winning Issue For Democrats In 2010 [Politico]
Related: The New Congress: The Anti-Abortion Hardliners
New Majority [Newsweek]

Image Via Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund