Aug 28, 2023, 6:37am EDT

Nikki Haley’s abortion message could catch on in the GOP

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Republicans worried about Democrats leveraging abortion (again) to make gains in 2024 want GOP candidates to take a page out of Nikki Haley’s debate prep playbook.

Haley dismissed the idea that a 15-week national abortion ban could pass through Congress. Instead, she argued the focus should be on finding “consensus” around banning “late-term abortions,” sustaining access to contraception, allowing doctors who don’t support abortion refuse to perform them, and preventing women who get abortions from being penalized.

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Defeated Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon bluntly said on Fox News that Republicans would lose the messaging war in 2024 unless they followed Haley’s “perfect response” in the debate.

“No one really understood how important abortion would be in 2022 because no one had run in a post-Roe world, so we suddenly got attacked, viciously attacked, by the Democrats, and it is a winning message for them,” she said. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted Dixon’s opposition to rape exceptions in abortion bans in their contest, which took place alongide a ballot initiative guaranteeing abortion rights that passed by a wide margin.

“The only candidate on the stage that talked about how we should protect women and not demonize them was Nikki Haley,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. said Sunday on CBS of the first GOP presidential debate. “And that is a message that we have to carry through. We have to be pro-woman and pro-life. You cannot go after women and attack them because they make a choice that you don’t like or don’t agree with.”

And Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, told Semafor at a watch party last week: “She had probably the best-packaged message on abortion that I’ve heard, I want to say, in my entire adult life.”

Haley might have won herself some fans, but her position wasn’t a favorite within the anti-abortion movement, which has rallied around a 15-week federal ban as a minimum ask for candidates.