President Donald Trump ignited a fiery debate among pro-lifers when he posted a message on his social media platform blaming “many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest or the Life of the Mother” for “not living up to expectations in the MidTerms.”
Republicans who had been expecting a “red wave” election last November were disappointed when several of President Trump’s preferred candidates lost in hotly contested races. The GOP had hoped to gain back both houses of congress, but was left with a slim majority in the House of Representatives and a Democrat majority in the Senate.
Recent History of Mid-Terms
Traditionally, mid-term elections are seen as referendums on the job performance of incumbent presidents and are opportunities for the opposition party to make political gains after the honeymoon period is over for incoming presidents.
The only exception to this rule in the last twenty years occurred in 2002, when Republicans won control of both houses of congress as Republican President George W. Bush rallied the country in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. With the exception of 2002, every midterm election has resulted in the incumbent president’s party losing one or both houses of congress, and that is precisely what happened in 2022, as Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives but hung on to control of the US Senate.
Nevertheless, many Republicans felt the GOP could have won back both houses of congress, and some blamed Donald Trump for throwing his support behind bad candidates. On the other side of the political spectrum, liberals knew they had narrowly averted the disaster of a flailing Biden presidency and credited their support of abortion rights as the key to this success.
President Trump’s Claims
Opposition to abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother
In June of 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the near 50 year precedent that made abortion legal in every state in the nation. The impact of overturning Roe was immediate and galvanized and energized certain sectors of society that view abortion as a sort of political and legal sacrament.
President Trump claimed that the expectations of huge victories were thwarted by “the abortion issue” and specifically by those candidates who “firmly insisted” on the principle that all children in the womb, even those conceived through rape or incest or in a life-endangering pregnancy, should be protected by law.
One part of President Trump’s claims should be dismissed directly. No candidate opposed abortion in the case of a mother whose life is in danger. This is more appropriately described as unintentional abortion, since the intent of the medical intervention in those cases is to care for a sick pregnant women, and not to end the life of the innocent child.
With regard to rape and incest, many of the highest profile candidates endorsed by Trump, were far from “firm” in their 100% pro-life stance and yet lost their elections anyways. Many of those candidates, in fact, attempted to run away from a 100% pro-life position by fully embracing Trump’s exceptions, to no avail.
Despite the legacy media and President Trump’s claims about the impact of abortion on the midterm elections, the facts point to a completely different theory for the lackluster results for the GOP.
A closer look at the individual campaigns shows that it was not the candidate’s exact position on abortion, but the remarkable fundraising disparity, that made all the difference.
In Arizona, Republican candidate for Senate Blake Masters had originally described his position on his website as 100% pro-life and a supporter of a federal Human Life Amendment. However, as the campaign headed towards the finish line, Masters scrubbed the 100% pro-life stance from his campaign website, replacing it with the supposed consensus view of just banning late term abortion.
Needless to say, Democrats called him out on his last minute change of heart, labeling him not only “extreme” on abortion but also called him a dishonest politician hiding his real opinion. Of course, the real reason Masters lost was not the nuance of his positions, but the fact that Campaign Finance records show that Mark Kelly raised over $92 million to Blake Masters’ $15.6 million. Kelly just overpowered Masters on fundraising and that was more than enough to beat him by 5%.
This tweet by Democrat strategist Greg Pinelo sums up the Democrat strategy against those who “soften” their 100% pro-life stance. Note that the “better” position for this strategist is to allow the killing of innocent preborn children conceived in rape or incest.
But having an original 100% pro-life position was not a pre-requisite for being attacked as a pro-life extremist by the Left (including the mainstream media). This is proven by the other big election in Arizona in 2022. The GOP’s Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, Kari Lake, stated unequivocally from early on that she supported abortion in the cases of rape and incest. Nevertheless, she was attacked by her opponents as being against the exception for rape and incest. Campaign Finance records show that conservative star, Kari Lake, raised $10 million but was outdone by the relatively unknown Democrat Katie Hobbs who raised $13 million. Kari Lake, lost the election by less than 1% amidst serious voting machine “malfunctions” on the day of the election.
Another high profile Trump-endorsed candidate that underperformed was Dr. Oz. Oz won the primary against the staunchly pro-life military veteran Kathy Barnette.
During the general campaign, the Democrat candidate, John Fetterman, claimed that Dr. Oz was against abortion in cases of rape and incest, but the Oz campaign repeatedly and publicly denied it. Newsweek fact-checked the Fetterman campaign’s claims and concluded that the accusations of Dr. Oz being 100% pro-life amounted to “misleading material.” It didn’t matter, Dr. Oz lost despite his more than shaky pro-life stance. Again, campaign finance reports show that Dr. Oz raised $50 million while John Fetterman was able to raise $75 million. It is almost certain that the $25 million fundraising gap, and not Oz’s position on abortion made all the difference.
Dr. Oz’s loss was a specially hard blow to Republicans as John Fetterman was a very weak candidate and the Senate seat had previously been held by Republican Pat Toomey, in 2016.
While adopting Trump’s recommended abortion exceptions did not prove to be a panacea for most candidates, a 100% pro-life position likewise did not guarantee success.
Of the high profile Trump-endorsed candidates who lost, only Doug Mastriano the candidate for governor of Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon, the candidate for governor of Michigan, remained firmly committed to a 100% pro-life position. Even so, Mastriano tried to downplay the issue, stating that the legislation on abortion would not come from him but from the legislature, and therefore his position on abortions in cases of rape and incest was irrelevant.
In the race for governor of Pennsylvania, Mastriano’s campaign raised only $8 million and was overwhelmed by his Democrat opponent’s $72 million haul.
Just as in Arizona, it was fundraising and not substantive positions on abortion, that decided the Pennsylvania race, and as you will see below, the same trend applied to Michigan’s high profile governor’s race.
The other Trump-endorsed candidate who ran on a 100% pro-life platform, and lost, was Tudor Dixon. She ended up receiving 43.9% of the vote. Her election result was slightly better than the GOP’s 2018 candidate for governor of Michigan, Bill Schuette, who received 43.8 % of the vote. Schuette’s position had been the Trump position of being “pro-life” with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, and yet he did not fare any better than Tudor Dixon who maintained a 100% pro-life position throughout the campaign.
Again, a much more important factor than her position on rape and incest exceptions was the fact that Gretchen Whitmer spent $53 million to Tudor Dixon’s $8 million on the campaign.
In Georgia, Herschel Walker had initially stated that he did not believe there were any situations when abortion were warranted, but then, during the general campaign, he walked it back stating he agreed with Georgia’s heartbeat law, and with the exceptions for rape and incest. Finally, Walker’s position on abortion was overshadowed by revelations from an alleged mistress that Walker had paid to abort their baby. Regardless of the murky details, he too was accused by his opponents of holding a “no exceptions” position even when he didn’t. Campaign Finance records show that the Walker campaign raised $58 million while his opponent, Democrat Raphael Warnock, raised a record setting $175 million. Walker would go on to lose in the general and in the automatic runoff.
Other Trump endorsed candidates with slightly lower profiles also lost despite embracing Trump’s exceptions.
The candidate for governor in Wisconsin, Tim Michels, waffled on abortion, attempting to both stake the 100% pro-life flag while also accepting exceptions. Campaign finance shows that his campaign spent $24 million while his opponent, Democrat Tony Evers spent over $40 million dollars. Michels lost by 3%.
In New York, Republican congressman Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor went even further in his attempt to distance himself from the 100% pro-lifer camp, stating that he not only supported rape and incest exceptions, but filmed a political ad saying he would not try to overturn New York’s abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy law. The Lee Zeldin committee raised $26 million, while his Democrat opponent, Kathy Hochul raised $58 million. Again, reagardless of his substantive position on abortion, Lee Zeldin was outgunned in the fundraising department, and he lost.
Contrast the positions of the Trump-endorsed candidates with that of someone like 100% pro-life Senator Rand Paul, who beat his Democrat pro-abortion contender by over 20%. The Democrat National Committee did not pour money into defeating Rand Paul because they correctly surmised that Booker was not within striking distance. Campaign finance reports show that Republican Senator Rand Paul raised approximately $27 million to Booker’s $6 million. Compare that with the campaign spending on Kentucky’s pro-life amendment where abortion activists spent $6.5 million to pro-lifer’s $1 million. Within the same ballot, the conservative 100% pro-life candidate won in a landslide, while the pro-life ballot measure lost. The common denominator was not substance, but spending. In Kentucky as in almost every other state, the side that far outspent the other, ended up winning regardless of whether it was for abortion or against it.
While spending does not always decide the election, the 2022 midterms show how it correlate with final results much more closely than with a candidate’s specific stance on abortion.
Take the case of a high-profile incumbent pro-life politician like Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who actually acted upon his 100% pro-life beliefs by insisting on a no-exceptions heartbeat bill and enforced the state’s historic ban on abortion.
Abbott easily defeated the media darling, Beto O’Rourke, even though O’Rourke made abortion in cases of rape and incest the centerpiece of his campaign. Again, a closer look at funding tells us much of what we need to know. According to campaign finance records, Abbott supporters spent a whopping $140 million on the campaign, compared with O’Rourke’s $76 million. Abbott won by a comfortable 12% margin despite being under constant attack for his staunch pro-life record.
Florida and Ohio
Far less vocal pro-lifers like Ron DeSantis in Florida or Mike DeWine in Ohio were non-committal regarding rape and incest exceptions and yet were attacked using the rape and incest extremist argument nonetheless. Still, they fared very well.
Again, if we look at the campaign’s spending, a clear correlation appears. Ron DeSantis raised an astounding $200 million dollars for his campaign, while his Democrat opponent raised only $30 million. DeSantis won by a historic 20% margin. In Ohio, Republican Mike DeWine raised $20 million to his Democrat challenger, Nan Whaley’s $8 million. DeWine won by 25%.
The picture that emerges from a careful analysis of the mid-term election is one that shows that the Democrat party and its candidates portrayed any and all pro-life positions as extreme. Therefore, whether or not a candidate accepted rape and incest exceptions did not have much bearing on the whether they would be labeled as pro-life extremists.
President Trump’s claim that opposition to rape and incest exceptions – not to mention the non-existent opposition to the life of the mother exception – harmed some candidates is simply not supported by the facts. Pro-lifers of all different stripes lost their closely contested races regardless of whether they ended up embracing rape and incest exceptions.
Instead, it is clear that adopting Trump’s abortion exceptions and “running away” from the matter didn’t help any candidates.
Clearly, voters responded not to specific ideological positions, but to campaign funding disparities and the basic political skills of the candidates.
Midterm Ballot Measures: Follow the Money
The oversized impact of campaign fundraising was also on display in highly publicized abortion related ballot referendums.
The legacy media made a great deal out of the fact that every ballot measures on abortion that was voted upon during the midterm elections went against the pro-life position, no matter how the law was framed or whether it contained anything to do with rape and incest exceptions.
One reading of this was that America had turned a corner on abortion and had picked the pro-abortion side. However, a closer look at the ballot measures reveals the same correlation between fundraising and ballot results.
In Michigan, Vermont, and California, the the “right” to end the life of a preborn child was elevated to the highest state constitutional protection, meaning that people voted overwhelmingly to consider abortion as the most fundamental right.
In Kentucky, the people rejected an abortion-neutral amendment that would have left abortion up to the legislature.
In Montana, the people voted to allow doctors and nurses to legally deny lifesaving treatment to babies that had already been born.
Earlier in the year, just a month after Roe was overturned, the people of Kansas voted to ratify a Kansas Supreme Court opinion that imposed abortion on demand upon the state.
While these results could be interpreted as proof that the pro-life position is politically untenable post-Dobbs, the fact remains that pro-lifers were outspent by at least a 3:1 ratio in every single ballot measure, and often by a lot more.
It is clear that voters are easily manipulated on the matter of abortion and are not carefully discerning which pro-life policies to support.
President Trump’s contention that “the abortion issue was poorly handled by the GOP” is undeniable, but Trump’s implication that adopting rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions would have changed the result is manifestly incorrect.
The 2022 midterm election results show that it is the power of fundraising and the skill and experience of the politician that is most closely correlated to winning elections.
Trump Claim #2: Pro-lifers got their wish from the Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again
While pro-lifers were uniformly pleased with the downfall of Roe v. Wade, the Dobbs decision was never and will never be the end goal of the pro-life movement. Dobbs, stands for the proposition that the constitution has nothing to say about the right to life of preborn babies. That is only a victory if one considers that the alternative was a made-up constitutional “right” to abortion. Pro-lifers got the Missouri compromise in the recent Dobbs decision; what we want in the longterm is the equal protection of the existing constitutional right to life for preborn babies.
Many pro-lifers have taken exception with President Trump’s assertion that pro-lifers just didn’t show up to the midterms.
Vice-President Mike Pence retweeted a post by pro-life political organization, Susan B. Anthony, challenging President Trump’s assertions that pro-lifers didn’t show up. SBA is a pro-life organization that claims to have spent $78 million during the mid-terms to support pro-life candidates.
In the press release attached to the tweet, Susan B Anthony responded directly to President Trump’s remarks by claiming that the poor midterm results were not due to pro-life voters, but to weak pro-life candidates “who adopt the Ostrich Strategy on abortion (and) lose.”
However, as is shown above, President Trump is correct in one critique of the pro-life movement, and that is its inability to win the fundraising battle. Pro-lifers were vastly outspent by pro-abortion political forces.
Clearly, donating is one way of “showing up”, and pro-lifers didn’t come even close to pro-aborts.
The Heritage Foundation’s midterm election report calculated that Democrats spent $450 million on pro-abortion attack ads to Republican’s paltry $10 million in counter-ads. Likewise, a review of the funding behind the ballot measures clearly shows a similarly grotesque disparity in fundraising in every single state where abortion was on the ballot.
Pro-lifers are almost always outspent by pro-abortion forces that enjoy hundreds of millions in government funds and billions of dollars in revenue from carrying out the grisly business of abortion.
Clearly, the intensity of support from leftists for abortion rights was reflected in the outpouring of campaign contributions for causes and candidates that they identified as championing abortion. The extreme disparity in contributions between pro-abortion donors and pro-life donors proved that in some respects Trump was correct in pointing out the lack of intensity on the part of pro-life donors and voters.
It is also true, however, that in terms of pure turnout of the base, the GOP base turned out in large numbers, with the GOP winning the national generic ballot by a larger margin than polling suggested prior to the election. In this sense, pro-lifers did show up as they always do, they just did not donate as much and as a result were unsuccessful in winning over independents.
Winning Over Suburban Independents
As numerous post-election analysis and polls show, the 2022 midterm election was decided by suburban independents who responded to the barrage of pro-abortion spending in what was the costliest midterm in history. That independents turned out to vote in favor of abortion was not an indication of low pro-life turnout, but of a society that has been brainwashed by a woke educational system and is easily manipulated by untruthful pro-abortion advertising, a biased media, and pervasive cultural rot.
When considering independent’s therefore, Trump’s statement calling for better messaging was not off the mark.
Republicans were seen by independents and pro-lifers alike to be lacking a plan on abortion after the Dobbs decision. However, President Trump’s suggestion to adopt the language of exceptions not only did not make any difference in the 2022 midterm, but it cannot be a longterm plan, as it betrays the fundamental pro-life principle that all innocent human beings at every stage of development are deserving of legal protection.
President Trump was correct to point out that the pro-life movement failed to mobilize after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, however he was wrong to blame the poor results of his endorsed candidates on the specifics of their pro-life position. Pro-lifers of all stripes won and lost. What was clear is that the candidate that raised the most money almost always won the election.
Yes, messaging and execution can always be better, and election integrity is a real problem, but if we are looking for one reason pro-life candidates and ballot issues lost, it was not the “issue” itself, but the massive disparity in fundraising compounded with the inherent media bias.
There is plenty of fault to throw around, but a true leader assumes his fault and looks for solutions and does not just attempt to blame others.
If pro-lifers wish to win the crucial culture wars that are tearing our nation apart, we need to find a way to fundraise more for the causes that are important to us. We need to find ways to overcome the blatant media bias against our causes. Above all, we must look to ourselves and assume the responsibility of leading by personal example, inspiring others to change their lives and their communities for the better.