There are a handful of core lessons in Political Strategy 101, and near the top of the list is a simple maxim: Pursue goals that unite your allies and divide your opponents.
It took only hours Tuesday for fellow Republicans to trash Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks nationwide. From the halls of Congress to the campaign trail, Republicans attacked the bill as a distraction that divides the GOP and reminds voters that most of them see the party as too extreme on abortion.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in May that his party might pursue a federal abortion ban if put in power, quickly distanced himself from Graham’s bill. “Most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday.
Around the same time, Senate Minority Whip John Thune downplayed the possibility that Graham’s bill could ever pass.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, meanwhile, emphasized that the Senate GOP conference wasn’t involved in the creation of Graham’s bill, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito added, in reference to Graham, “I’m not sure what he’s thinking here.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, were eager to talk about little else. Taking advantage of the gift Graham had presented, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared on the chamber floor and declared:
“Rather than expanding women’s rights, MAGA Republicans would curtail them. Rather than give individuals the freedom to make their own health care choices, they’d hand that power over to radical politicians. And let me add this: Republicans are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to explain why they want nationwide abortion bans when they said they’d leave it up to the states.”
There’s no reason to believe yesterday’s developments represented a one-day story. For one thing, Democrats will be reminding voters about this — especially Graham’s promises about what will happen under a Republican majority — between now and Election Day, which is just eight weeks away.
For another, it’s possible House Republicans will unveil a related bill of their own sometime soon, renewing the conversation Democrats are eager to have.