Former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is the kind of politician you won’t see a lot of these days–a Republican telling her party to go easy on the anti-choice rhetoric. As the Republican National Convention officially sets its agenda for the 2012 campaign season, reproductive choice and control has become one of the most incendiary issues of the election. Hutchison has decided this makes it the perfect moment to buck her party and explain why abortion may not be the rallying point they think it would be.
“Mothers and daughters can disagree on abortion, and we shouldn’t put a party around an issue that is so personal and also, religious-based,” the retiring Republican senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we need to say, ‘Here are our principles, and we welcome you as a Republican. We can disagree on any number of issues, but if you want to be a Republican, we welcome you.”
It wasn’t so long ago that the GOP appeared willing to welcome the assorted viewpoints. Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan himself thought that there was room in the party for pro-choice Republicans as recently as 2009, when he told MSNBC that “We have plenty of pro-choice Republicans in our party. There are pro-choice Republicans in Congress…We are a big-tent party.”
That big tent is looking smaller now in 2012, thanks to a rigidly anti-choice platform that values an egg at the moment of conception more fully than the woman or girl who may be carrying it. Yet despite how extreme the platform has become–and how eager many social conservative politicians and activists seem to be to ensure that lawmakers publicly commit to supporting it–Republicans are still certain that it won’t cost them any votes. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who was put in charge of constructing the 2012 party platform, has now said he’s sure no independent voters would be put off by detailing down to the fertilized egg just how enthusiastic the GOP is about “protecting” potential life.
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“I don’t think it’s any surprise that the Republican Party is the party that embraces the dignity and sanctity of life,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’re a pro-life party. The Democrats are pro-choice.”
McDonnell may believe that the votes are secure, but former Florida Governor Jeb Bush isn’t as certain. Bush, like Hutchison, also believes the GOP needs to consider reaching out to a bigger group with more diverse views, although he doesn’t believe the lack of outreach will make a difference in this year’s results.
With a “Prayer Rally for America’s Future” put on by Focus on the Family kicking off the convention, and a beauty salon meant to attract female delegates and guests, the GOP is still ramping up it’s “traditional” approach to appealing to women. But as Republican Mary Anne Carter told Salon’s Irin Carmon, it’s all just flubbed messaging. “Our rhetoric is wrong. Our policies are right.”