Bill Cotterell: Abortion Will Hurt the GOP Next Year

Bill Cotterell: Abortion Will Hurt the GOP Next Year

Whenever the Democrats suffered one of their humiliating routs at the polls, the late U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina would sometimes try to teach his party that “there is no education in the second kick of a mule.”

Well, OK then, how about the seventh kick?  

How many whacks should it take for politicians to start strategically compromising even deeply held beliefs? It’s been a long time since Henry Clay blew his chance in 1840 by declaring, “I’d rather be right than president,” and got his wish. The operating principle of political campaigns today is more like the famous dictum of NFL coach Al Davis: “Just win, baby.”

Hollings tried to talk sense to the Democrats following such electoral debacles as the 1972 George McGovern campaign or Walter Mondale’s 1984 wipeout, but they pretty much persisted in waging the next race with the policies that lost them the last one. It was as if, in those days, they’d rather feel good about losing than do what it took to win.

But now, it’s the Democrats who just had a surprisingly good off-year election. And the Republicans seem intent on clinging stubbornly to a moral issue that voters have said, again and again, they favor the Democratic position on.

That issue is abortion. Never mind how you feel about the morality of ending a pregnancy or the legal wisdom of the U.S. Supreme Court, pro choice wins and right to life loses.

The high court ruling that last year turned abortion back to the states was a gift to Democrats. In fact, it’s about the only thing they’ve got going for them in 2024. And from the White House to state legislatures, Republican leaders have done all they can to dig in their heels on the wrong side.

Since the high court’s reversal, Florida and several other states have severely restricted abortion access. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida legislators – the Republicans in charge – opted to restrict that choice to the first six weeks of gestation, but a legal challenge is holding up the law.

There’s also a public-initiative petition campaign which, if it gets on the ballot next year, would amend our Constitution to enshrine abortion rights.

That’s what Ohio did last week, outvoting Republican efforts to thwart the public will. First, anti-abortion forces tried to raise the bar for passing any constitutional amendment to 60% of public turnout. Ohioans rejected that, then approved the pro-choice constitutional amendment by a wide margin. 

What was specially significant about the latter vote is that Ohio became the seventh state in which voters have rejected severe abortion restrictions. Yeah, but how often has the “pro-life” side won a statewide referendum? Never.

If a football team was 0-7 at this time of the season, the coaches would be thinking of making big changes – like finding new jobs.

Republicans, though, are stuck with what they’ve advocated for more than a half century. And there are some more abortion bills coming up in a few more states in 2024.

In addition to the rout in Ohio, the GOP lost both chambers of the legislature to the Democrats in Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin had promised new abortion limits if voters gave his party solid control. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was re-elected over Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who adhered to the GOP hard line on abortion.

The trend was a late question for Republican presidential contenders in their Miami debate. 

DeSantis said anti-abortion forces “have been caught flat-footed on these referenda” around the country. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina proclaimed themselves “pro-life,” but Haley said a nationwide ban is not possible because neither party will have 60 votes in the Senate, while Scott (who has since dropped out) said he’d like to draw the line at 15 weeks’ gestation.

Vivek Ramaswamy said Republicans should have had an alternative to offer voters when the pro-choice forces put their proposal on the ballot. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he likes leaving the decision to the states, because “I trust the people of this country.”

Abortion won’t decide the presidency or control of Congress next year. The economy, foreign wars, crime, immigration and inflation will. But it’s an important issue, especially for female voters and younger people, and the Republicans need to start learning before that mule kicks them again.

Bill Cotterell is a retired Capitol reporter for United Press International and the Tallahassee Democrat. He can be reached at

10 Responses to "Bill Cotterell: Abortion Will Hurt the GOP Next Year"

  1. “… to start strategically compromising even deeply held beliefs? ”
    Bill we compromise on budgets, programs, etc not moral issues.

    Steve, thanks for publishing this article. It’s good to periodically see what the other side has to say and their reasoning, as immoral as we may conclude it is.

  2. Cotrell is like a bad yeast infection that won’t go away. He’s always looking for a crevice to fester in. I don’t need this in the last newspaper I am able to read with interest.

    Why Steve thinks he has to foist a retired blow hard on the readers with his tired old tropes is why I won’t subscribe to this silliness.

  3. Overturning Roe-v-Wade did not make abortion illegal. The move simply returned the power to the states, where it belongs. Now states are making decisions, as they should… and everyone freaks out. Trying to or pushing to create a federal ban on abortion is a complete dichotomy of the R-v-W ruling.

    The pro-death Democrats and their Media PACs play the Alinsky semantics game very well. So long as it has value in a campaign, progressively-Marxist Dems and their Media PACs will continue to play that game with abortion. The problem is that Pro-Life Republicans do not know how to effectively counter that game.

    Republicans should applaud these state referendums because that’s what the R-v-W overturn was all about. They should also embrace the reality that the immovable extremes are not the answer. The progressively-Marxist Dems will hurt themselves with their extreme positions on abortion… if the Republicans will just let them.

    Abortion is a horrible ugly reality that isn’t going away. Republicans should support states rights and assume a position that with respect to abortion, there must be limits and there must be exceptions… and stop playing into the progressively-Marxist Dems’ hands.

  4. Good old Bil C. The Capitol Crumudgen.
    Yeah he’s gotten older but still a total leftist.
    Some things remain constant over the years.

  5. I thought you’d retired, Bill….

    You apparently view abortion as a political football, to be used to as leverage to appease a voting block.

    Then there’s the rest of us, that view abortion as murder. How do you negotiate with a murder? Whether it’s the guy that shoots a cashier over the money in the cash register, the kid that wants your car, the jealous ex-boyfriend that can’t move on, the woman that decides she’s just not ready to be a mother, or the doctor that’s willing to kill as part of his daily routine?

    What happens when abortion is redefined? There are movements out there now to allow a baby to die a “natural” death when it’s born as a result of a botched abortion. With it, all discussions of viability, first breath, etc. have been rendered moot. Let’s move the line further out. How about “before leaving the hospital”? “first spoken word”? “enrollment in school”? “High school graduation”? “Living with parents”?

    There used to be a law, repealed several decades back, that allowed for the legal killing of a child if it occurred due to an act of discipline by the parent. So the accidental death of a child to to discipline is not illegal, but the left intends to win elections because the deliberate killing of them for “convenience” is being challenged? It’s a strange world that you live in, Bill…

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