(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans on Wednesday took a hard look at Tuesday night’s punishing election results in some key battleground states, and they’re not pleased with what they’re seeing.
“Yesterday to me was a complete failure,” said Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Republicans were handed a string of rebukes, from red-state Kentucky’s projected move to reelect Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to Virginia projected to elect Democratic majorities in both chambers of its state Legislature, likely thwarting GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s election promise to enact a 15-week abortion ban.
But most telling for Senate Republicans was the message red-state Ohio sent on abortion, where voters were projected to have overwhelmingly chosen to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.
“I don’t think it’s a big secret, but in many states, abortion is not a winning issue for Republicans,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Wednesday. “The winning issues are related to the economy and the cost of living.”
“Focusing on abortion didn’t turn out to be the big winner,” he added.
Ohio’s election results continued a string of successful ballot initiatives that have secured abortion access in multiple states since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade.
“Last night was a pretty clear case that most Ohioans by almost 15 points said they believe that women and their doctors should make their health care choices not a bunch of Columbus politicians, it’s about as simple as that,” Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown said.
To some Senate Republicans, the results indicate that restrictive abortion policy isn’t resonating with their voters.
“That’s an indication in my view that maybe more women voted maybe more young women voted,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said “When people vote their voice is heard and I think that’s what happened. They don’t agree with some of the more stringent abortion restrictions across the country.”
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said it will be up to each individual candidate to navigate how to handle abortion in their respective campaigns as the nation turns its attention to 2024.
“Abortion is a matter of conscience and so it’s not just something you change based on political gain. But this is something each individual candidate has to try to figure out for themselves and every part of the country is a little bit different,” Cornyn said. “I wouldn’t state a general rule that would apply nationwide.”
Senate Republicans have recently been forced to stare down the implications of abortion policy in their own chamber, where a monthslong blockade by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville over a Pentagon abortion policy — that compensates service members to travel to receive abortion — has stalled the confirmation of hundreds of military promotions.
The Ohio results are not changing Tuberville’s mind, he said Wednesday.
“No, I represent Alabama, I know how we stand,” Tuberville said. “So, as a national party, I don’t think there’ll be any movement on that. I don’t think the country changes I think just sometimes you have momentum shifts in different directions.”
Many Republicans suggested that, after Tuesday night’s results, it’s past time to shift the narrative from abortion to more “kitchen table” issues, which they believe will gain more traction with voters.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who heads the Senate Republican campaign arm, said he believes the 2024 election will focus more on the border, the economy, and what he called the “disaster geopolitically.”
“There’s a big difference in running on state issues, and these were all state elections, and running on federal policies defending Joe Biden,” Daines said. “It will be a very different set of issues in 2024 with the United States Senate.”
The Senate’s #2 Republican, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also said it’s time to shift focus to issues he believes will work for the GOP.
“We have to have a compelling message that appeals to the suburban voters no question about that,” Thune said. “So, I think that’s economy, jobs, cost of living, public safety the border. I think those are the issues that really resonate with people across the country and our candidates this year are going to be on offense on that issue.”
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.