New York Times | Melinda Henneberger | June 22, 2007
I KEEP reading about a universe in which social conservatives are warming to Rudy Giuliani. But this would have to be a place where his estranged children and three wives and multiple appearances in fishnets were irrelevant to the Republican base. Where the nice gay couple he moved in with between marriages would be asked to appear in the film montage at the nominating convention in St. Paul.
Even in the real world, a pro-choice Republican nominee would be a gift to the Democrats, because the Republican Party wins over so many swing voters on abortion alone. Which is why Fred Thompson, who is against abortion rights, is getting so much grateful attention from his party now. And why, despite wide opposition to the war in Iraq, Democrats must still win back such voters to take the White House next year.
Over 18 months, I traveled to 20 states listening to women of all ages, races, tax brackets and points of view speak at length on the issues they care about heading into ’08. They convinced me that the conventional wisdom was wrong about the last presidential contest, that Democrats did not lose support among women because “security moms” saw President Bush as the better protector against terrorism. What first-time defectors mentioned most often was abortion.
Why would that be, given that Roe v. Wade was decided almost 35 years ago? Opponents of abortion rights saw 2004 as the chance of a lifetime to overturn Roe, with a movement favorite already in the Oval Office and several spots on the Supreme Court likely to open up. A handful of Catholic bishops spoke out more plainly than in any previous election season and moved the Catholic swing vote that Al Gore had won in 2000 to Mr. Bush.
The standard response from Democratic leaders has been that anyone lost to them over this issue is not coming back — and that regrettable as that might be, there is nothing to be done. But that is not what I heard from these voters.
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