Last week, it came as a bit of surprise when Chris Christie criticized Marco Rubio from the left on the issue of reproductive rights. The New Jersey governor noted that he opposes abortion rights, but unlike the Florida senator, he also supports rape and incest exceptions. Referring to Rubio’s more extreme position, Christie said in an MSNBC interview, “I think that’s the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.”
In Saturday night’s debate, Jeb Bush touched on a similar point. After boasting about his own far-right record on the issue, the former governor added, “But I think we have to be cognizant of the fact there’s a lot of people that are concerned about having a pro-life position without any exceptions.”
All of this may seem counterintuitive in a GOP primary, but as we talked about the other day, surveys suggest a plurality of New Hampshire Republicans are actually pro-choice.
For his part, Rubio argued, “I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life.” The senator added that, as far as he’s concerned, Hillary Clinton and Democrats “are the extremists when it comes to the issue of abortion.”
Of course, “extremism” is a matter of perspective. The morning after the debate, Rubio talked to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who asked about the rights that should be available to women impregnated by rapists. The senator reiterated the same position he’s maintained for years: the government, under a Rubio administration, should have the authority to force those women to take the pregnancies to term, whether they want to or not.
“It’s a terrible situation. I mean, a crisis pregnancy, especially as a result of something as horrifying as that, I’m not telling you it’s easy. I’m not here saying it’s an easy choice. It is a horrifying thing what you’ve just described. It’s heartbreaking. It is unimaginable, quite frankly. I get it. I really do. And that’s why this issue is so difficult.“But I believe a human being, an unborn child, has a right to live irrespective of the circumstances by which they were conceived.”
There’s no real ambiguity here. Rubio would sign a bill that includes a rape exception, but as far as he’s concerned, the position of his White House would be that women impregnated by rapists should not be legally permitted to terminate that pregnancy – at any stage of the pregnancy.
Rubio may believe he can apply the “extremist” label on Democratic candidates, but given the attitudes of the American mainstream, that would almost certainly be more difficult than he expects.
For her part, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, Clinton described Rubio’s rhetoric as “pathetic.”