DeSantis Pivots Right on Abortion, Laying Groundwork for Presidential Primary

In early February, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated that he wished the GOP-controlled state legislature to ship him legislation banning abortions in the state after six weeks of being pregnant. “We’re for pro-life. I urge the legislature to work, produce great things, and we are going to signal,” DeSantis told a news conference ostensibly gathered to debate funds proposals for the upcoming fiscal yr.

DeSantis’s shift rightward on abortion comes as GOP legislatures in a number of states which have comparatively permissive abortion legal guidelines on the books search to ramp up restrictions on reproductive well being. In North Carolina, Nebraska and Florida, anti-abortion activists are pushing for bans after six weeks of being pregnant — which might carry the states into line with the hardline anti-abortion legal guidelines of GOP-led states in the remainder of the South, Midwest and mountain West.

What makes the transfer in Florida significantly insidious is that the state has lengthy been considered as a southern outlier on abortion. Polling exhibits widespread, cross-party assist for retaining abortion authorized.

In 2014, a serious research of Floridians’ attitudes on abortion, carried out by Pew Research, estimated that 56 % wished abortion saved authorized in all or most circumstances. Even amongst evangelical Protestants within the state, assist for abortion was at 36 %; amongst Catholics it stood at 50 %; and amongst mainline Protestants, it was 67 %.

Since then, assist for abortion amongst Floridians has elevated. Final yr, simply earlier than the Supreme Courtroom overturned Roe v. Wade, two-thirds of Floridians, and more than 50 percent of Republican voters in the state, told pollsters from Florida Atlantic University that they wanted abortion legal in most or all circumstances; and solely 12 % of voters supported a whole ban on the process.

For years, right-wing legislators in Florida have tried to chip away on the state’s abortion protections, and for years, advocates efficiently pushed again, utilizing the state constitution’s explicitly codified right to privacy as a authorized spear-tip to defend abortion entry.

In 2022, nonetheless, earlier than the overturning of Roe, the Florida legislature passed HB 5, banning abortions after 15 weeks. DeSantis promptly signed it into legislation and, whereas a decrease courtroom issued an injunction in opposition to its implementation, the keep was short-lived — in July, the state appealed the injunction, which resulted in it being routinely lifted whereas the case slowly wound its means by the courts. Since then, as many information retailers have reported, those in need of abortions after 15 weeks have been unable to get the mandatory medical procedures within the state of Florida.

Now, nonetheless, issues may get even worse within the Sunshine State. Regardless of having stayed largely silent on abortion during the 2022 elections — a technique that paid dividends for DeSantis and certain contributed to his 19 percent win over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist — the Florida governor now appears to have made a political calculation that, regardless of the shortage of widespread assist for a lot proper anti-abortion insurance policies, pushing for ever extra restrictions will play nicely among the many GOP base come the 2024 presidential primaries and can give him time, after the first course of, to impact some kind of pivot again to a “center floor.”

For years, right-wing legislators in Florida have tried to chip away on the state’s abortion protections, and for years, advocates efficiently pushed again.

Whether or not he’ll have the ability to execute that pivot is, nonetheless, one other matter totally. A current ballot discovered that there isn’t a single state within the nation during which a majority of residents favor a complete ban on abortions. And, because the November 2022 elections confirmed, abortion performed an enormous function in how individuals voted, serving to to stymie GOP hopes of a purple wave.

DeSantis hasn’t formally launched his 2024 presidential marketing campaign, however all of the indicators point out that he quickly will. In a hypothetical head-to-head race, he ranks forward of Donald Trump amongst doubtless GOP voters in some polls — although in others, he still significantly trails the ex-president. No different GOP hopeful but comes near being a reputable contender, although it’s a truism that so much can occur in a yr of politics, and the primary primaries aren’t till early 2024. Given the escalating authorized woes that candidate Trump faces, it’s doubtless that the anti-Trump vote will, over the approaching months, begin to coalesce round DeSantis. It’s additionally doubtless that the occasion bigwigs and megadonors will go all out this yr to cease a broken Trump from as soon as once more capturing the nomination — searching for a single candidate they’ll again who appears higher capable of produce an electoral majority. If DeSantis occasions his entry into the race strategically, holding off on an official announcement because the media hypothesis round his potential candidacy intensifies, he’ll be the odds-on favourite to tackle Trump through the dwelling stretch into the primaries.

DeSantis has made a concerted push over the previous couple of years to outflank Trump on the suitable. His preliminary responses to COVID had been pretty pragmatic, however he quickly moved into the anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown, anti-masking, anti-test mandate camp. He got here into workplace pledging to work with Democrats on signature insurance policies, together with defending the setting, however now he’s marching lock-step with the GOP in its opposition to clean energy policies and electric vehicles, dismissing carbon reduction policies as “left-wing stuff.” He has shifted ever-rightward in his education policy, going to rhetorical struggle in opposition to important race principle and African American research, pushing for legal guidelines to restrict the rights of transgender college students and signing a “Don’t Say Gay” bill into legislation that limits discussions round sexuality in Florida’s school rooms.

Abortion is simply the most recent challenge to return underneath DeSantis’s opportunistic purview.

Whereas a powerful majority of Floridians oppose proscribing abortion, 2022 confirmed it wasn’t a make-or-break challenge for them when selecting their governor — maybe as a result of, erroneously because it turned out, many Floridians assumed their abortion legal guidelines would stay in place even after a second DeSantis victory. Safe in his workplace, DeSantis can now flip his consideration to his presidential ambitions. And, within the main course of to return, he must show his anti-abortion bona fides. Anti-abortion groups, which play an outsized function within the GOP primaries, have made clear they received’t throw their assist behind any candidate who doesn’t advocate nationwide abortion restrictions and/or bans. One presidential hopeful after the next has lined up to flaunt their promotion of evermore extreme anti-abortion measures and penalties. In January, the Republican Nationwide Committee directed GOP political leaders to enact the “strongest” possible restrictions on abortion within the run-up to the 2024 elections.

Having received reelection by a landslide, and having efficiently prevented speaking specifics on abortion restrictions by his reelection marketing campaign, DeSantis is now free to craft insurance policies that can dovetail with the views of probably the most excessive part of the GOP base.

Signing laws banning virtually all abortions within the state of Florida could nicely assist him turn into both a king or a kingmaker inside his occasion, however a brand new query will then come up: If DeSantis all however bans abortion in Florida, after which makes use of that ban as rocket gas accelerating his rise to nationwide prominence, how will unbiased voters react throughout subsequent yr’s presidential marketing campaign to the prospect of an anti-choice zealot taking possession of the keys to the White Home in a post-Roe U.S.?

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