In stretch run, Roy Moore hammers on abortion but is issue’s impact overstated?
Allegations about his past having given Democrats an opening to defeat him, Roy Moore seeks to wield the abortion issue to close the door.
Moore’s campaign has pounced on the subject as poll numbers remain tight and the days tick down to Tuesday.
Moore’s wife, Kayla, has claimed that Doug Jones is a threat to children, and Faith2Action President Janet Porter — in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, who is pregnant — said Moore would stand up for the rights of her unborn baby while Jones would stand aside. Moore, upping the ante, has declared at rallies that he will advocate for a complete repeal of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade.
Anti-abortion stridency may not play well in some regions of the U.S., but for deeply conservative Alabama voters, its familiar and perhaps comforting boilerplate.
Jones is trying to become the first Democrat elected to a Senate seat Alabama in three decades. Pundits and political observers wonder whether, in a close race, that his abortion stance will snatch a win away.
“I would think that is probably his single biggest obstacle,” said Gary Nordlinger, a professor of political management at George Washington University, who finds himself fascinated by the Alabama drama. “The biggest single obstacle is being a Democrat. The fact he’s pro-choice reinforces that.”
Jones has felt compelled to lay out his position more than once since telling NBC’s Chuck Todd in September that he’s unabashedly pro-choice. In early November, he refined his position, describing abortion as an “intensely personal decision.” He said he supports a woman’s right to choose, but that he backs existing law that generally restricts late-term procedures.
“It is always difficult to play defense on political issues, and this is not less true of abortion,” said Deana Rohlinger, professor of sociology at Florida State University, who watches such battles nationally. “Opponents of legal abortion are very strong at the state level and can constantly change their messaging to fit the local political scene. Supporters of safe and legal abortion have a stronger national presence than state presence, which means they often look for one-size-fits-all messaging. They want their message to resonate broadly — and that is difficult to do in the contemporary political age.”
But the drag of the abortion issue in Alabama is causing at least some state Democrats to question their messaging going forward.
State Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden, a pro-life Democrat, suggests, for example, that future pro-choice candidates emphasize a commitment to making adoptions more affordable and less constrained by red tape and bureaucracy.
And he said that Democrats ought to be ready to go on the attack. “They need to point out that a lot of pro-life legislators are just paying lip service to being pro-life by passing bills every year that they know are just going to end up getting ruled unconstitutional,” Ford said.
Democrats, he said, have to be stepping up with solutions to larger social and economic problems that lead to abortions.
Matthew Tyson, a marketing strategist and a member of the Calhoun County Democratic Committee, is a pro-life Democrat who has done research with Democrats for Life of America. “It’s simple economics,” Tyson said. “Increase access to contraception and sexual education so that you lessen crisis pregnancies. Provide women with fair wages, job security and paid leave so they don’t have to choose between a baby and a career. Provide women with healthcare and support so they can take care of themselves and their baby.”
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, suggested that Alabama’s Democrats embrace former President Bill Clinton’s statements on the matter. “The old Bill Clinton position is the best you can do. And that is an abortion should be safe, legal and rare.”
There are schools of thought that both Alabama parties overestimate abortion’s present political impact in Alabama.
A Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted from Nov. 27-30, showed that 41 percent of likely voters in Alabama Senate race believe that a candidate’s position toward health care is most important. Twenty-six percent chose moral character as most important. Just 14 percent chose abortion.
Abortion trailed health care even among self-identified Republicans, coming in second.
Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, crunched numbers provided through the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), which is a survey source used by political scientists to study public opinion and elections.
He argues that the framing of the abortion question is the critical matter. For instance, Pew Research Center conducted an Alabama poll in 2014 that showed 37 percent of respondents favored abortion being legal in “all” or “most cases.” Fifty-eight percent of respondents were opposed, a number exceeded only by respondents in Arkansas and Mississippi.
CCES, however, framed the question in another way, asking in one of its surveys whether respondents opposed or supported the statement, “always allow a woman to obtain an abortion as a matter of choice.” In Alabama, the outcome was nearly a 50-50 split.
Broken down along partisan lines, 72 percent of Alabama Republicans opposed the statement, yet 60.3 percent said they supported permitting abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life was in danger. Clearly, abortion wasn’t totally off the table for the state’s staunchly conservative GOP.
“I have to think the conservative Christians who care about abortion are voting for Roy Moore no matter what,” said Fording. “Maybe a few are on the fence and are troubled by the allegations against him, but the picture I got is that Alabama is not as far off from the mainstream as I would have thought.”
“When you look at the public opinion data, there aren’t that many hardcores who believe abortion should never be legal,” said Fording. “It’s trending in a more liberal direction and it’s more about where you draw the line.”
For Jones, though, it may all come down to how many hardcores are still here in Alabama, and how many turn out on Tuesday. The last Democrat to win a statewide race in the conservative Deep South was John Bell Edwards in the 2015 Louisiana governor’s race. Edwards professed a pro-life platform.
via Real-Time News from AL.com http://bit.ly/2zzWl2c
December 9, 2017 at 05:15AM