As he struggles to keep the cash flowing, Trump hands Democrats a win on abortion

The former president’s latest statement about reproductive rights on Truth Social is particularly telling

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 09 April 2024 01:20 BST
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“We have abortion where everybody wanted it.”

That was what Donald Trump said on Monday. Two years after the fall of Roe vs Wade and multiple states running referenda and trying out potential bans on abortion, it was a perplexing stance for the presidential candidate to take. It’s also a stance that puts the GOP squarely on defence for the remainder of the election cycle.

Trump made the declaration in a prepared video message posted to his Truth Social platform early Monday morning. By noon, it had already been denounced by both his political rival, Joe Biden, and Trump’s supposed allies, the anti-abortion right.

Right where everybody wants it, indeed.

The ex-president’s outlining of his views on reproductive freedom are the culmination of nearly a decade of fence-sitting. Having previously declared himself “very pro-choice” in a 1999 interview, Trump finds himself once again balancing a desire to maintain his close ties with the evangelical right and what can be assumed is his view of the palatability of abortion politics in America. His latest statement is, importantly, a sign that the former president recognises a national abortion ban is a political death sentence for the Republican Party’s chances in national elections, where swing districts decide the fate of the House, Senate and presidency.

It’s not exactly a secret how the fate of “abortion bans” and the politicians who support them fare in such cases. Just ask Kari Lake, Tudor Dixon, Dr Mehmet Oz or any number of other Republican politicians whose efforts to placate the far right left them losing at the ballot box. Or look to the Virginia legislative elections in 2023, when Glenn Youngkin suffered a political defeat as his party lost control of the legislature in an election that became centred around the governor’s proposed restrictions for abortion.

So why the continued efforts to win over the far right of the party, now that Trump has effectively won what is likely to be his last Republican primary race? The most likely reason is money: the former president must recognise that his most conservative adherents are the most likely source for much-needed cash for his campaign — not to mention his mounting legal costs. A similar dynamic is thought to have motivated his skepticism of a proposed ban of TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform (Jeff Yass, a major investor in TikTok, is also one of Trump’s larger financial backers).

Another reason may simply be an eagerness to tout his own track record, given the competitiveness of his race against Biden and his measurable effect on the Supreme Court, where three of the nine justices are conseratives appointed under his watch.

The former president is feeling the financial crunch for sure. He recently hosted a pricy fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida, attended by several billionaires in a (successful) bid to outdo his opponent’s impressive recent single-day fundraising total. Yet despite his one-day money surge, Trump’s campaign continues to trail the Biden team in overall fundraising and has been forced to dilute some of that money to pay for his legal bills and to fight off multiple Republican rivals in his own primary race.

Democrats, meanwhile, are making it clear that they’ll be playing offence this year. Abortion ballot initiatives are set to happen in several states over the next few months, and the president is urging voters to restore and strengthen Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to allow the protections of Roe vs Wade to be codified into law.

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez made that clear on Monday in a memo proclaiming that Trump would sign a national abortion ban if elected president again.

“This election will determine the fate of reproductive freedom in all 50 states. The choice is simple: President Biden and Vice President Harris believe women’s reproductive health care decisions should be made by them and their doctors, not politicians. That’s why they’re running to restore the protections of Roe vs Wade and will never allow a national abortion ban to become law,” she wrote.

Also on Monday, Biden officials announced the launch of an ad campaign featuring a Texas woman who was denied lifesaving abortion care due to Republican-passed restrictions on the practice. Strategists said the campaign cost $30m and would air “in battleground states on local broadcast and cable television, digitally, as well as on national cable.” It’s clear that on this issue, Biden isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is. Meanwhile, Trump runs his mouth to try and keep the money pouring in — but all the money in the world can’t convince voters that even the risk of an abortion ban is necessarily worth it.

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