“An Anvil Tied Around Their Waist”: Biden To “Lean Into” Abortion
Within the first five seconds of officially announcing his run for reelection, President Biden made clear that abortion would be a cornerstone of his campaign.
The second still image from his launch video showed a protestor standing outside the Supreme Court. An encapsulation of Democratic orthodoxy, her sign read, “abortion is healthcare.” The Biden campaign believes that by uniting around that message, and attacking the GOP as extremists on abortion, they can keep a Republican out of the White House in 2024 just like they held off a predicted “red wave” in 2022.
A campaign spokesman told RealClearPolitics that abortion access will be “a huge tenet” of the reelection strategy and that, on this question, Vice President Kamala Harris will serve as “the leading voice.”
And while Biden spoke first to a friendly union crowd earlier in the day, touting his efforts to revive domestic manufacturing and promising to “finish the job,” it was Harris who delivered the pro-abortion message at the campaign’s first official rally.
“I stand here, proud to run for reelection with President Joe Biden, as vice president of the United States of America, so we can finish the job,” she told a crowded auditorium at Howard University before blasting Republicans as “so-called leaders who want you to bow down to them, to elect them, to praise them, to say they are strong when they’re in the process of tearing down rights and freedoms.”
Reporters spotted Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the newly announced campaign manager, watching from the crowd. Her number two: Quentin Fulks, an alum of Sen. Raphael Warnock’s 2022 successful reelection and also the pro-abortion group Emily’s List.
Biden and his team are confident they have the right personnel and policy in place to win the abortion argument in a general election, regardless of who Republicans nominate, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the campaign’s plans but who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details on the record.
“They all have this political anvil tied around their waist, and we can talk credibly about the issue and how extreme Republicans are no matter who their nominee is, even if that’s not Trump,” the aide told RCP in reference to the GOP field led by the former president.
Abortion access was always going to be a central pillar of the campaign, the aide added, but Biden and Harris are “leaning in because Republicans are giving us that opportunity,” before saying that for the GOP, “abortion in this primary for them will be what ‘Medicare for All’ was for us in 2019.”
“And when they stand on a debate stage in August, one of the first questions will be, ‘would you sign a national abortion ban – yes or no? Raise your hand,’” the aide predicted. The resulting image, they said, will be “seared into the minds of voters.”
Democrats have rallied around abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, and Biden had promised before the midterms that he would codify Roe into federal law if voters delivered him a super majority in the Senate, a hope that did not develop. Though buoyed politically by the controversy as more and more states pass legislation limiting abortion, the White House has not said if the president favors any national restrictions at all. That debate now consumes Republicans.
Trump earned a strong rebuke from the anti-abortion lobby earlier this month when he said that the “issue should be decided at the state level.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, promised her group would oppose any candidate “who refuses to embrace at a minimum a 15-week national standard to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to enact further protections.”
Some Republicans, like Mike Pence, who is mulling his own White House bid, have already expressed a willingness to meet that standard. The former vice president told RCP in an interview last September that he supports a 15-week ban. Others, like former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, told RCP earlier this month that debating what week to ban abortion is “a no win.”
Haley was the first declared candidate to address the topic at length, laying out her vision for finding a “national consensus” on abortion at SBA Pro-Life America. At the group’s headquarters in Arlington, the former South Carolina governor, who signed a 20-week ban into state law, insisted that there was a “federal role” for regulating abortion but gave no specifics.
What was possible in red states, she added, would not be enacted at the federal level, noting that “no Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide. Just as no Democratic president can override the laws of all 50 states.”
In a statement afterwards, the influential pro-life group praised Haley for her commitment “to acting on the American consensus against late-term abortion by protecting unborn children by at least 15 weeks when they can feel excruciating pain.”
The Haley campaign disputed the characterization by SBA, telling RCP that her speech “was clear” and that she wants to find consensus to ban “late-term abortion” but did not put forward any specific restrictions.
A spokesperson for the organization that promised to oppose any candidate not backing a 15-week ban assured RCP that they listened to every word that Haley just delivered at their headquarters. “We stand by what she assured us,” the official told RCP, without offering additional specifics on the record.
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.