Could the future success of Republican candidates in the battleground state of Nevada be jeopardized if the Republican National Committee strengthens its position in passing state and federal anti-abortion legislation?
On Friday, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution to “go on the offensive in the 2024 election cycle” on abortion and “urge Republican legislators” in both the state and Congress to “pass the toughest pro-life laws.” , such as laws recognizing “the beating heart and experiences of pain of the unborn.”
The resolution could make it harder for Republican candidates in Nevada, similar to what happened when Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., introduced a 15-week statewide abortion ban two months before the 2022 midterm election, said Amy Tarkanian, a TV politician and strategist, who is also a former leader of the Nevada Republican Party.
“Everyone racked their brains at the time of the proposal,” Tarkanian said. “It’s a state matter, we left it up to the states. I think it hurt some of the candidates.”
In Nevada, abortion rights were enshrined by a popular vote in 1990 and can’t be changed except by a subsequent vote, not a vote by the legislature, Tarkanian said, so it’s a short-sighted desire on the part of the Republican National Committee to hope that Republican lawmakers in Nevada may succeed in passing an anti-abortion law.
“Even though you’re a pro-life Republican, it’s your job to educate voters that this is what happened here in Nevada,” Tarkanian said.
Strong pro-life candidates lost in Nevada
In the 2022 midterm election, most Republicans who championed strong anti-abortion rhetoric lost their races in Nevada, while Republican candidates like Gov. Joe Lombardo — who struck a middle ground during his campaign and said he would be defeated by a “pro -Life” governs Linse,” but he also said he would honor an executive order to protect women from other states seeking abortions in Nevada — fought victories.
Anti-abortion Republicans running for Congress pledged to uphold Nevada’s protections against abortion and said the issue should be left to the states, but even with that strategy, all of those candidates lost their races.
Nevadans’ attitudes toward abortion are complex, UNLV policy professor Dan Lee said, but the majority support some degree of protection against abortion. The level of support begins to decline during the trimester as fewer Nevadans support abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, he said. National polls reflect these attitudes.
The Republican National Committee resolution said polls consistently show that a majority of Americans “support national, state and local restrictions on abortion.” In Nevada, however, polls show that the majority supports some access to abortion.
A 2021 poll conducted by OH Predictive Insights found that 69 percent of Nevada voters support abortion rights, while 31 percent oppose it. In 1990, 63.5 percent of Nevada voters approved the referendum that allowed abortions up to 24 weeks.
“This resolution can backfire, especially in a state like Nevada, if the Republican candidates don’t do a good job with their message,” Tarkanian said.
Melissa Clement, executive director of Nevada Right to Life, believes the resolution will have a positive impact and help Nevada Republican candidates get elected.
“I think it will help,” Clement said. “It clearly shows the difference between Republicans and Democrats, who just want abortion at all costs.”
Clement said she would support a federal ban on abortion, but would also like to see it at the state level.
History of Libertarianism and Support
Especially in a state that has historically resisted government influence, the GOP’s strategy of going on the offensive with abortion could further hurt Nevada Republicans’ chances of winning.
When Nevada was founded in 1864, residents’ goals were to make money and be left alone, said Michael Green, an associate professor in UNLV’s Department of History who teaches history courses on Nevada and Las Vegas. This small government ethos is why the legislature meets every two years, why the governor had limited powers and why the state had only three Supreme Court justices, Green said.
“Nevada has pretty much retained that attitude,” Green said, “admittedly, the people who are voicing it tend to live in rural Nevada.”
Don’t always go the way
While Nevadans have historically “held the conversation” to keep the government out of business, they don’t always “walk the trail,” Green said.
About 20 years ago, for example, Nevada passed legislation that defined marriage only as between a man and a woman, legislation that was not considered libertarian, Green said. Similarly, anti-choice laws that are not necessarily libertarian may be making headway in Nevada.
He pointed to a comic the review journal published years ago called Bloom County, in which Opus the penguin was studying to be a farmer and had to learn how to say two sentences: one about, those “goobers out of Washington” out of his business and the other about where his federal subsidy check is.
“Nevada’s federal officials, and to some extent state officials, have always had to perform this dance, and they’re not unique in their determination to reduce the size of government but also to make sure we get goodies, or as they used to say, pork.” ‘ Green said.
Moderates don’t always win
The RNC’s resolution may show some parallels with the GOP’s immigration policy, Lee said. In the 2012 presidential election, when Mitt Romeny lost, the RNC conducted a post-mortem analysis and concluded that the party needed to take a more dovish stance on immigration to appeal to the growing Latino population to hold elections win, Lee said.
“But Trump went the opposite way and ended up winning the presidential election,” Lee said. “Maybe that’s the playbook the RNC takes. Moderation doesn’t necessarily mean you will win.”
However, in the 2022 gubernatorial campaign, the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee backed the more conservative candidate Joey Gilbert, but the more moderate candidate, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, ended up winning the primary.
“In a way, the RNC is signaling that these are the types of candidates they would like to see win,” Lee said. “It will encourage more conservative candidates to run. But will they be able to win their primaries?”
Contact Jessica Hill at [email protected] Follow @jess_hillyeah on twitter.