Opinion: GOP tries to corral Trump on abortion

It didn’t get as much attention as the jury verdict which ordered him to pay $5 million for sexual abuse and defamation, but former President Donald Trump tried to smooth the waters this week with a key pro-life group, as he ramps up his 2024 campaign for the White House.

“President Trump reiterated his opposition to the extreme Democratic position of abortion on demand,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group, who trekked to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting with Trump.

Left unsaid was how Dannenfelser had harshly criticized Trump just a few weeks earlier after he made clear that states should take the lead on abortion restrictions — something she said was ‘morally indefensible.’

Blessing the effort to patch things up was a key Trump ally in Congress.

“I look forward to working with them to protect the unborn,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has proposed a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

While Trump picked conservative Supreme Court Justices who helped to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision last year, he’s often had an uneasy political relationship with abortion opponents, even though they are one of the key wings of the Republican Party.

Go back to the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections — where Republicans came up short in their bid to win back the U.S. Senate — that’s when Trump directly laid the blame on pro-life activists.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Trump said after a Red Wave failed to materialize last November. “It was the ‘abortion issue.” He said the pursuit of strong abortion bans, ‘lost large numbers of voters.’

So far, Trump is right. That abortion ruling has clearly provided more election energy to Democrats, leaving Republican Party leaders somewhat unsure about the path forward — especially in a race for President.

“Independents did not break our way, which has to happen if we’re going to win in 2024,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said of the 2022 midterms. “And abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Donald Trump won Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2016. He lost them both in 2020. The Republicans probably can’t afford a repeat in 2024.

So far, Trump has tried to steer clear of specifics, unlike Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who recently signed a 6-week abortion ban into law.

But a 6-week ban could be trouble for Republicans in swing states, especially among suburban voters.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com