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Why Trump balked on an abortion ban: Pure politics

The former president viewed hardline positions on abortion as toxic to the GOP in the midterms.

Former President Donald Trump was facing pressure from anti-abortion activists on the right to embrace a national ban. Kellyanne Conway, his 2016 campaign manager who later became his White House counselor, was arguing for a 15-week ban. So was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump’s longtime ally.

Trump himself even toyed with the idea in public, musing that a 15-week cutoff might achieve political consensus.

In the end, Trump couldn’t get past the feeling that it was a loser with voters. It is a lesson he learned through hard political experience — most importantly in the 2022 elections.

For years, at a gut level, the former president has feared the backlash he might face for taking a hard-line position on abortion. And despite his attempt to fog up the issue with his new, state-based stance, Trump is still likely to pay a price with voters for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. And his decision not to endorse a ban has exposed deep fissures within his own party. After Graham released a statement Monday in which he said he “respectfully disagree[s]” with Trump’s position, Trump did not let it go, instead accusing Graham and Republicans like him of sinking the GOP.

“Senator Lindsey Graham is doing a great disservice to the Republican Party, and to our Country,” Trump wrote in response to Graham on Truth Social. “People like Lindsey Graham, that are unrelenting, are handing Democrats their dream of the House, Senate, and perhaps even the Presidency.”

The most ominous evidence, for Trump, was in the 2022 midterms, when an array of Republican candidates he endorsed lost in part because of backlash against the party’s abortion policies.

Two years before his announcement Monday that he was not endorsing a national abortion ban, Trump told his hand-picked candidate for governor of Michigan, Tudor Dixon, that it wasn’t too late to “ talk differently about abortion.”

The conservative radio host did not publicly support exceptions in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother — a position the former president believed was a fatal error for her campaign.

And it was. Not only for Dixon, who lost her race to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but for Republicans across the country who endorsed tight restrictions on the procedure. Their candidates fell short in key Senate races, and the party barely won back the House.

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