The (GOP) Politics of Dobbs:
There’s been much talk of late about the downturn in former President Trump’s political fortunes. Two reasons are most often cited: (1) damage done by the testimony of Republican officials to the Committee on the January 6th insurrection, and (2) a recent poll showing Mr. Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tied among Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. (New Hampshire holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary for both major political parties).
Yesterday’s ruling helps Trump in a number of ways. First: it changes the subject, something the Trump camp has been quite desperate to do since the Committee hearings began. Second, it reminds the Republican Party’s most important constituency — white evangelical Christians — just who made yesterday’s ruling possible. That would be, first and foremost, Donald Trump. Third, it requires all the other GOP candidates for the 2024 presidential nomination to acknowledge (and feign admiration for) Trump’s role in Roe’s reversal. This reinforces the perception that the Republican “field” of candidates is actually two fields: Trump and everybody else. Fourth, and this is always a consideration in Trump world, it enables an aggressive direct mail fund-raising campaign, asking small donors to express their appreciation for Trump’s role in the reversal of Roe by sending money to the coffers of what might be called the Trump Bank for Future Endeavors. Such an appeal will raise a lot of money.
All of which boosts Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign and, at least to some degree, diminishes the campaigns of his would-be Republican challengers. This is not to suggest that yesterday’s ruling helps Trump’s 2024 general election prospects. It does not. If anything, it will likely drive his unfavorable rating with women a bit higher than it already is (which is high). But one doesn’t get to the general election without winning the nomination first.
The political power of the Roe reversal in GOP politics was evident in the reaction of the 2024 Mike Pence for President campaign. The former vice president’s base is the white evangelical community. He was chosen to be Trump’s running mate in 2016 and again in 2020 because of his appeal to (and respect for) that constituency. Sidelined by Trump’s starring role in transforming the Supreme Court, Pence risked being an afterthought (if that) in the wake of the Court’s decision to overturn Roe.
What to do?
Pence decided to swing for the fences, calling for a nationwide ban on abortion. Not even Justice Alito called for anything of the sort, but desperate times call for drastic actions. The desperation of the Pence campaign, which just recently looked like it might be grabbing some “market share,” reinforced the notion that yesterday was a good day for the Trump for President campaign and not so much for the others.