Yesterday, Lindsey Graham announced that he is introducing a bill to ban abortion across the country after 15 weeks. He took Republicans by surprise as many GOP candidates are trying to downplay the issue in their races. Candidates in swing states immediately disavowed the position. Graham is trying to put the issue front and center.
Apparently, Graham has gone rogue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday that he would prefer to leave abortion up to the states. Colorado GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Joe Dea called Graham “reckless and tone deaf.” Republican Senator John Cornyn said, “…my preference would be for those decisions to made on a state-by-state basis.” Just as Republican candidates are running from the Dobbs decision, Graham is doing his part to make November a referendum on abortion.
I’m not sure what Graham is thinking, but it sure looks like McConnell is losing control of his caucus. The Senate Majority leader has been able to keep discipline for years and, now, it’s falling apart in the middle of a crucial midterm election. Graham’s bill just further highlights the division within the GOP.
McConnell and Florida Senator Rick Scott have already been at odds. As head of the NRSC, Scott has misspent the money that should be shoring up embattled GOP candidates in battleground states. Scott also left the GOP with a bunch of seriously flawed candidates like Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania and Blake Masters in Arizona.
McConnell is trying to bail Republicans out. His SuperPac just dropped $21 million into Senate races, including $3.4 million in North Carolina. The NRSC, for its part, is struggling to fund the races it should be helping.
Graham could be trying to improve Republican turnout in the midterm. The pro-life folks might get motivated if they believe Congress would actually pass a nationwide abortion ban. However, those people were probably going to vote anyway. They always do because they’ve always believed they were voting against Democrats’ attempts to liberalize abortion laws.
Democrats are certainly seeing a surge in voter registration and enthusiasm in the wake of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe. However, most of the surge has been in states where abortion rights would be most at risk. Now, Graham has put all states at risk. He’s given Democrats an organizing tool that gets beyond just targeted Senate races and could spill into a lot of U.S. House races.
Here’s another theory. Maybe Lindsey Graham has been in deep cover all along. For years, he was seen as moderate Republican and protégé of John McCain, a guy who never went along with the crowd. When Trump first ran, Graham was one of his chief GOP critics, declaring that he wouldn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and calling for his ouster from the party.
When Trump got elected, Graham had a dramatic change of heart and became one of the president’s golfing buddies and staunch defenders. Most progressives believed that he was being blackmailed, probably over his sexuality. Maybe, though, Graham was just getting in position to foil Republicans if they got too extreme.
Think about it. Republicans just got the first break they’ve had in a while. The Consumer Price Index shows inflation came in higher than expected in August and stocks tumbled. The fed is now almost certain raise interest rates in a move that will “cause pain.” That’s the conversation Republicans have been trying to get started. And Graham just knocked the report right off the page and put the focus back on abortion.
Maybe he sees the threat MAGA candidates pose to the country and he’s undermining GOP campaigns on purpose. He’s knocking them off message and keeping turmoil in the GOP Senate caucus. Maybe he didn’t just change his spots to suit the Trumpers. Maybe he’s part of the Deep State.
Then again, maybe not.