My crush on Mike Huckabee, the boyish, honey-tongued Southern Baptist preacher and Republican presidential hopeful, sparked alight and was abruptly extinguished within about an hour's span during last night's CNN/YouTube Republican debates. But apparently, Iowans' love affair with Huckabee is just beginning.
While he still trails in national polls, the former Republican governor of Arkansas surged from a tied fourth-place finish in an ABC/Washington Post poll conducted on July 31, to a close second place finish, just behind Mitt Romney, in that poll repeated on November 18, among likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. And a significant 48% (the highest percentage) of Huckabee supporters said they would "definitely support" him on caucus day.
Twenty-eight percent of voters (the highest percentage) most trusted Huckabee to handle "social issues, such as abortion and gay civil unions." (If by "handle" you mean overturn and prevent, respectively.) And that may account for Huckabee's popularity. At the very end of the poll, voters were asked whether they thought "abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases." A whopping 75% said it should be illegal, of whom 51% thought it should be illegal in all cases. No wonder Huckabee is doing so well in that state.
But does the percentage of Republican Iowans who believe abortion should be illegal reflect the beliefs of Republicans nationwide? The Republican Majority for Choice, an outfit that describes itself as a "pro-choice, common sense Republican organization," conducted a poll last June determining that though 61% of Republicans surveyed nationwide identified as pro-life, 72% of those surveyed believed that abortion should be a decision made by a woman, her family, and her doctor. A mere 18% felt that the government should decide on abortion rights. Newsflash: if you want to keep the government out of the decision, keep it legal! When releasing the Republican Majority for Choice poll over the summer, the organization's co-chair, Jennifer Stockman, stated in a press release, "The extreme far-right rhetoric and focus of many presidential candidates speaks only to a fringe minority. The true beliefs of the real Republican majority show tolerance on moral issues and a clear demand that GOP leaders focus on areas where we unite as a Party." The poll also found that 60% of Republicans would vote for a candidate that did not share their view on abortion if they agreed on other matters.
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I suppose it's a good thing for the Grand Old Party, given how inchoate Republican positions on abortion are this time around. For example, Rewire's friend Journey's video question aired, asking what a woman who obtains an abortion should be charged with, and what her penalty should be. Then Ron Paul and Fred Thompson stumbled through blame-the-doctor answers, and Paul said it shouldn't "be the same" for all states. As Journey herself later pointed out, if these candidates really think abortion is murder, then "murder-for-hire is still illegal." While these national politicians might not seem as outwardly cruel to women as picket-line protestors outside abortion clinics, their scathing disregard for the fact that women know what they're doing when they obtain abortions implies that they, like clinic protestors, can't imagine that women can act in their own self-interest. (Fred Thompson apparently thinks only "young girls – young women" ever get abortions. I guess if you want to think of women as infantile and incapable of purposeful action, it helps to think of them as underage.)
Host Anderson Cooper gave Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani an infuriating pass on this question, but the rest of us shouldn't. On Feministing, here, and elsewhere, a spirited discussion is breaking out about this very point. As Vanessa noted on Feministing, when anti-choicers can't answer a basic follow-up question on their beliefs on abortion, this is an opportunity not just to reframe the debate, but to reclaim it outright. And maybe, awed by the force of our logic, the Republicans who believe abortion should be a decision a woman makes on her own will come out of the woodwork.