Trump team nervous about abortion ban blowback in running mate search, report says

Puck News reports Trump team would rather avoid a running mate hailing from state with abortion restrictions

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 21 May 2024 22:00 BST
Biden warns against Trump's threat to abortion rights

Donald Trump’s aversion to answering tough questions about abortion may now be impacting his search for a running mate.

Puck News reported on Tuesday that the former president and his team are actively considering the effect a Republican hailing from a state with restrictive abortion laws could have for his electoral chances — and they’re assuming the worst.

The former president’s team is apparently worried that choosing a running mate from such a state would open the candidate up to uncomfortable questions about the issue, even as he has sought to dodge the political blowback from moderates by refusing to endorse a national ban.

According to Puck, Trump is currently listening to a number of advisers including former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway who have urged him to chart a less conservative path on reproductive rights as he heads into the general election.

If true, the reporting is as clear a sign as any that the former president recognises the clear political danger the issue of abortion and broader reproductive rights poses for Republicans among moderates and liberal voters.

Having latched on to the March for Life crowd largely for political expediency, a coalition of evangelical voters that helped him wrap up the 2016 and 2024 Republican primaries, the ex-president has sought to stop his party from charging further to the right in pursuit of a national abortion ban. But he has simultaneously boasted of his role in remaking the Supreme Court and causing Roe vs Wade to be overturned.

Polling has shown that reproductive rights may be the one top issue where incumbent President Joe Biden retains a clear edge over his general election opponent. The Biden campaign has latched onto that finding and held events in a number of key battleground states including Arizona, Minnesota and Florida centered around support for abortion rights. The Democratic president’s message on the issue is clear: vote for me, and a Democratic Senate, and we’ll codify the protections of Roe vs Wade into federal law.

A billboard displaying Donald Trump’s boastful remarks about his responsibility for overturning Roe vs Wade is displayed in Times Square
A billboard displaying Donald Trump’s boastful remarks about his responsibility for overturning Roe vs Wade is displayed in Times Square (Getty Images for DNC)

The GOP’s message is less clear. The party remains split on the issue of a national abortion ban, with some conservative senators including Lindsey Graham in favor of setting a national standard and others (including, apparently, Trump) preferring to “leave it to the states”.

Given Trump’s own reluctance to support a national ban, it’s likely that his eventual running mate will have to at least be able to accept that strategy, if not support it personally.

Yet, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a full-throated and vocal opposition to abortion rights across the board is necessary to win a Republican primary in many deeper-red districts and states.

A sizable number of Republicans are thought to be on Trump’s list of potential running mates, including nearly all of his former 2024 rivals. The ex-president is also thought to be looking at several of his loyalists in the House and Senate, such as Elise Stefanik and Marco Rubio.

The Trump campaign has until mid-July to make the decision. Republican delegates will gather in Milwaukee to officially nominate Trump as the party’s 2024 nominee, as well as his running mate.

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