Republicans were overly confident last year when asked if their stance on abortion would tip the scales in favor of the Democrats in the midterms. They were certain that voters would be more concerned about “serious issues” such as the economy, inflation, and immigration. Senator Rick Scott of Florida even declared, “That’s what people are caring about,” as he shrugged off concerns over abortion rights.
However, a leaked internal GOP document paints an entirely different picture. Instead of being an afterthought, it appears that the party’s draconian views on abortion and the ever-looming shadow of Donald Trump are not only causing significant harm to the Republican brand but could potentially lead to their downfall in the upcoming 2024 elections.
The memo, penned by the national Republican polling firm co/efficient, revealed some worrying statistics for the GOP. Over the past year, the Senate generic ballot has swung six points in favor of Democrats, shifting from R+3 to D+3. If that wasn’t unsettling enough for the GOP, the House generic ballot has swung an alarming 10 points toward Democrats, moving from R+6 to D+4.
In a deep dive into this notable shift, the memo attributes this sea change to independent and first-time voters with strong sentiments on the issue of abortion. According to the document, “Reproductive Freedom is the #1 issue among those that DID NOT vote in 2020.”
These independent and new voters, who often determine the outcomes of closely contested elections, have been highly turned off by the GOP’s extremist stance on abortion. Furthermore, these voters, along with a small yet influential segment of anti-Trump Republicans, have been actively supporting Democrats in recent elections to combat Trumpism and MAGA election deniers.
This memo thus underlines the GOP’s recognition that its extremist anti-abortion agenda and the legacy of Donald Trump are leading causes of their fading appeal among pivotal voters.
Reiterating this fact, two recent focus groups conducted by the Washington Post revealed that Trump and Trumpism are repelling swing voters in large numbers. The sentiment was overwhelmingly negative, with words like “nervous,” “scared,” “sick,” and “horrified” used to describe the prospect of Trump regaining the presidency. One voter from Wisconsin even went as far as to liken another Trump presidency to “living in Nazi Germany.”
Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, known for his “Trump without the baggage” persona, failed to charm these swing voters, the majority of whom preferred Biden. One participant, who had lived in Florida, echoed the sentiment of many, saying, “He’s very divisive also. … He would separate the country.”
In essence, the current extremism of the Republican Party, characterized by its fierce anti-abortion crusade and the residual effects of Trumpism, is driving key demographics away. The long-lasting visibility of these elements not only had a damaging impact on the GOP in 2020 and 2022, but they also threaten to bring about even more severe consequences for the party in 2024.