Lesson From Cuccinelli’s Loss: Pro-Lifers Must Go On the Offensive on Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 6, 2013   |   12:23PM   |   Washington, DC

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is the latest pro-life Republican to lose an election where the dominant discussion on pro-life issues was not about abortion, but contraception and birth control.

Like Mitt Romney and pro-life candidates running for Senate seats in the 2012 election cycle, Cuccinelli faced a massive onslaught of television, radio and mailed ads claiming he opposes contraception and birth control and is part of the fictitious “War on Women” pro-lifers are supposedly advocating.

This false attack is a serious problem the pro-life movement must address looking ahead to the 2014 Congressional elections. To have any hope of winning the Senate and wresting control of it from pro-abortion activist Harry Reid, the pro-life movement must shift the terms of debate to more friendly ground. Pro-life organizations and activists must help pro-life candidates move the debate from this false contention that pro-life advocates oppose contraception to the reality that their pro-abortion opponents are extremists on the abortion issue.

As was the case with Terry McAuliffe, he was no exception to the pro-abortion manta that favors absolutely no limits on late-term abortions or taxpayer funding of abortions. Yet, the debate in Virginia leading up to Tuesday’s vote never focused on that.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List, noted this problem in her own post-election analysis.

“Terry McAuliffe spent well over $5 million on misleading attack ads about Ken Cuccinelli and the fictitious ‘war on women,’ including running more than 5,600 spots on the abortion issue alone. Attacks on Cuccinelli were left unanswered, or answered too late, and the negative message stuck,” she told LifeNews in an email.

She continued: “This election shows that it is imperative for pro-lifers to be on offense in 2014 against the distortions and extremism of the Left. The Democrat strategy for 2014 is set: demonize pro-life candidates and spend big on ‘war on women’ advertising. The party, candidates, and movement must aggressively expose the other side’s extremism and penchant for putting women and children at risk through their abortion policies.”

Writing at Townhall, Terry Schilling, the Political Director of American Principles in Action, agrees — saying that social issues like abortion help GOP candidates if utilized the right way.

When George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, the Left never accused him of wanting to ban contraception, redefine rape, or criminalize abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Why? Because the Left was too busy playing defense. They were too busy explaining why John Kerry supported taxpayer-funded, partial-birth abortions.

In 2004 the GOP embraced a strategy of playing offense on social issues, instead of a so-called “truce” on social issues.

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s a completely different story.

The GOP embraced a “truce” on social issues across the country. And instead of putting Democrats on defense, by forcing them to explain why they sought to roll back health standards on abortion clinics, increase taxpayer funding of abortions, and allow abortions up until the moment of birth, Republicans chose to spin it all back to their economic platform.



National Democrats have never seen an abortion that they didn’t want taxpayers to pay for, and their social agenda is extremely out of touch with voters. In fact, Gallup shows that outside of rape, incest, and first trimester abortions, abortion is extremely unpopular. We’re talking 64% to 24% of Americans saying second trimester abortions should be illegal. The gap grows even more when you ask about third trimester abortions, with 80% to 14% saying these abortions should be illegal.

In fact, Gallup has consistently shown that only 26% of Americans support the National Democratic platform of “abortion on demand and without apology.”

So why surrender on an issue that Republicans consistently win on? Why allow the left to have an open net to score as many goals on social issues as possible, especially when Democrats are much less in sync with voters? It makes absolutely no sense. And this is why the GOP continues to lose elections.