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VICTOR JOECKS: What Youngkin can teach Lombardo, GOP about abortion

Running away screaming isn’t a winning strategy for Republicans on abortion. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin offers a much better playbook.

Democrats in Nevada and around the nation have a simple strategy for next year’s election. They’re going to relentlessly promote abortion and accuse Republicans of wanting to limit access to the procedure. It’s a dramatic shift from former President Bill Clinton’s call that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Today’s Democrats want abortion to be late-term, frequent and celebrated.

Even if it brings political success, how depressing to make promoting baby murder your life’s work — a life you have only because an abortionist didn’t plunge scissors into the base of your skull before you were born.

But politically speaking, abortion has been a good issue for Democrats in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. They’ve won pro-abortion ballot initiatives in several states and used the issue to drive turnout.

Leave aside your personal beliefs about abortion. If you believe that abortion intentionally ends a human life, you must be clearheaded about where things stand. Tactical errors mean more murdered babies.

That’s why Republican leaders should study Virginia. Recall that Youngkin won a surprise victory there in 2021. This year, he campaigned for Republicans to win a majority in the state Senate and maintain their advantage in the House of Delegates. That didn’t happen. Democrats now hold narrow majorities in each, 21-19 in the Senate and 51-49 in the House, with one GOP seat headed for a recount.

As they’ve done around the country, Virginia Democrats ran hard on abortion. On the surface, it looks as if it worked wonders. But dig a little deeper. President Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points in 2020. Yet Democrats have only the narrowest possible majorities in the Legislature. Redistricting also put Republicans at a disadvantage. One of the people who helped create the new lines said they were designed to make it hard for the GOP to win a trifecta. They almost did anyway.

For comparison, Biden won Nevada by 2.4 percentage points. Democrats almost have supermajorities in both legislative houses, helped along by a ruthless gerrymander. If Nevada Republicans are half as successful as the Virginia GOP in 2024, it would be a major victory.

Once you understand this, Virginia looks like a Republican success story and a blueprint for neutralizing abortion politically. The key figure was Youngkin, who didn’t ignore the issue. He said he would support a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. Polling showed that this moderate position had broad support. He also turned the focus to Democrats’ extremism by noting they support abortion at the point of birth. Rhetorically, he framed this as a choice between “no limits and reasonable limits.”

Nevada Democrats are trying to put abortion until to birth on the 2024 ballot. A judge recently ruled that initiative doesn’t pass constitutional muster, but it’s a certainty they will make revisions and refile.

Gov. Joe Lombardo and his political team need to stop ignoring this issue and engage. The argument in Nevada is even easier: Abortion is legal. Nevada’s abortion law can’t be changed without a popular vote. What Democrats want to do is enshrine full-term abortion in the constitution. That’s too extreme even for most people who support abortion.

Democrats have laid the groundwork to have this issue on the ballot in 2026, too. That’s when Lombardo is up for re-election. His consultants should try to blunt the issue this cycle. See what works and what doesn’t. That would give them valuable information for when it comes up during his re-election campaign.

Youngkin showed Republicans how to address abortion. If only Youngkin could give Lombardo some of his foresight and backbone.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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