After Kansas pro-abortion vote, a longtime White House advisor to 4 presidents says political consultants are scrambling: 'What the Hell did you make of this?'

People hug during a Value Them Both watch party after a vote on a constitutional amendment removing abortion protections from the Kansas Constitution failed, Tuesday, August 2, 2022, in Overland Park, Kansas.
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Kansas voters rejected a measure restricting abortion rights.
The Politico Playbook on Wednesday morning called it a "POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE" written in all caps.
Many GOP strategists still expect voters to focus more on inflation.
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Republican political strategists have a message for GOP candidates given the surprisingly high turnout that emerged in Kansas during Tuesday's primary to protect abortion rights: Focus on purse problems and stay out of the abortion debate.
While Kansas' sweeping vote has lifted Democrat spirits -- the Politico Playbook dubbed it a "POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE" in capital letters Wednesday morning -- Republicans are still mulling over what the vote will mean for their desired majorities next November. So far, they believe economic concerns like inflation and high gas prices will still prevail.
"I think there are a lot of phone calls today between strategists in every party that's like, 'What the hell did you make of this? And 'What are the consequences?' I don't think we know yet," said David Gergen, a political commentator who served under Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. "I think we know there's a possibility that these social issues could be a much stronger driving force in a race than was thought before Kansas."
The Kansas vote provided a major test for the anti-abortion cause after the Supreme Court ruled in June that Roe v. Wade to reverse the 1973 decision that previously guaranteed a national right to abortion. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an influential national anti-abortion organization, wrote in a press release that the vote "underscores a commitment to pro-life Americans."
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal for the states. While Kansas was the first state to bring the issue squarely before voters, it won't be the last: In November, Kentucky will vote on a similar measure denying abortion rights, and two blue states, California and Vermont, will vote on amendments to enshrine the right to abortion in their national constitutions.
"Voters in Kansas delivered a resounding victory to the pro-choice movement," Sarah Isgur, a former spokeswoman for the Trump administration's Justice Department and deputy campaign manager for Carly Fiorina, a GOP presidential candidate and 2016 businesswoman, wrote in the embassy . Isgur sent the column she co-wrote to Insiders when asked to assess how the Kansas vote affected the midterms.
"Clearly the vote drove the high turnout," she wrote in the column.
What is not yet clear, however, is to what extent voters will value the issue of abortion over other factors. Many Republican strategists are betting that voters will smack Democrats in November over high costs, arguing they should avoid the issue of abortion altogether.
Jeff Grappone, who previously led communications for the Republican Senate conference, said GOP candidates must continue to focus on pocketbook issues and draw a stark contrast to record gas prices and record inflation.
"My advice would be that Republicans stick to their compelling messages about the runaway costs of inflation and energy costs, and continue to largely avoid discussing the abortion debate," said Ron Bonjean, a former spokesman for Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
That seems to have been the strategy so far. So far, Republicans in Congress have not agreed on what types of abortion bans they will pursue nationally if they win a majority in the House or Senate.
Kristin Davison, vice president of Axiom Strategies, called the Kansas vote a one-time event that shouldn't have an impact elsewhere.
"Democrats want to make the Kansas vote more meaningful, but the fact of the matter is that a referendum doesn't result in a candidate fight on the ballot," the GOP political adviser told Insider. She predicted House Republicans would still win more than two dozen seats this fall by pounding incumbent Democrats on inflation, public education and immigration.
"High gas prices will still drown out grassroots talking points," Davison said. "That will drive voters when they go to the polls in November."
Signs for and against the Kansas abortion amendment are displayed in front of the Kansas 10 Highway in Lenexa, Kansas on August 1, 2022. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
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Republicans point to mixed polls on abortion
Polls show US voters have mixed views on abortion. Most voters want legal abortion but do not support later-term abortion. Abortion exceptions for rape and incest are popular.
"Most voters don't want extreme changes in one direction or another on abortion," said Terry Sullivan, founding partner of Firehouse Strategies, a consulting firm that led the 2016 presidential campaign for GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.
A total of 55% of voters say access to abortion is "very important" to their vote in November's midterm elections, according to a poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Tuesday.
But the poll also found that voters rank inflation ahead of abortion -- and ahead of gun violence and health care costs -- as the most important issue. And 53% go on to say the Supreme Court decision “made no difference” in their motivation to vote.
Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster for former President Donald Trump, called Tuesday's results "a boost to faltering Democrat vote enthusiasm."
"Across multiple public poll data, if the Roe verdict goes against inflation and rising prices, voters say inflation and rising prices will dictate their vote by a large margin over the Roe verdict," said Fabrizio, who also voted for GOP governor Ron DeSantis from Florida, he said.
Michael McAdams, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, called record high prices the "number one problem in any competitive district."
But some Republicans were decisively defeated by the vote. GOP Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas lamented Tuesday's result in a five-part Twitter message, calling it a "huge blow" to anti-abortion efforts in Jayhawk State.
"Words could never express the sadness and emotion many Kansans feel after the 'Value Them Both' amendment was not adopted," Marshall wrote in late August. "This is a tremendous blow to efforts to protect the sanctity of life in Kansas."
A "pretty obvious message," Gergen said, is that people would vote on the abortion issue.
"We weren't sure they would, and the early signs that people actually went to the ballot box in a conservative state are encouraging for Democrats -- and equally worrying for Republicans," he said he. "If you knit two or three Kansases together in any way, the whole narrative starts to change, that this could be a lot more of a jump ball."
Read the original article on Business Insider

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