GOP 2016 Hopefuls See 20-Week Abortion Ban as Way to Rally Conservatives, Woo the Middle

With both broad public support and rallying cries from an engaged conservative base for a 20-week abortion ban, some of the potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are taking the lead on new abortion restrictions.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been working to get the ban in place in his state as Rick Santorum, his former rival in the 2012 presidential contest, traveled to Austin to join rallies in support of the bill.

Santorum is also helping to spread the word about the rallies in Texas through Patriot Voices, an advocacy organization he began after leaving the presidential race.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is already considered a front-runner if he decides to run for the Republican presidential nomination, is taking the lead on the ban in the Senate. And, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) has been outspoken in his support of the 20-week abortion ban.

"Happy to see the Texas House pass HB 2 on the third reading last night. Without life, there is no liberty," he posted to his Facebook page Wednesday morning.

Presidential candidates usually have the unenviable task of having to appeal to the right-wing (for Republicans) or left-wing (for Democrats) to win the nomination without placing themselves on too far of either extreme to appeal to the moderates needed to win a general election. The 20-week abortion ban, though, does not have that downside. It has both broad support across the political spectrum and it is an issue that rallies the conservative, especially social conservative, base.

A Gallup poll conducted last year showed 64 percent of Americans supporting a ban on abortions in the second trimester, which begins at 16 weeks, and 80 percent support a ban on abortions in the third trimester, which begins at 29 weeks.

A National Journal poll conducted last month showed Americans favoring a 20-week abortion ban 48 to 44 percent. Even one-third of self-identified Democrats support the ban in the poll. Though pro-choice activists often portray themselves as representing women and young adults, the poll also shows the ban is slightly more favored by women than men and young adults favor it more than older adults.

Even though the 20-week abortion ban is a win-win scenario for Republicans, many national party leaders have been curiously absent from the debate.

In an interview with Politico last week, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, criticized the Republican National Committee for staying out of the Texas abortion battle.

"You either fight and ask your leaders to fight on an issue that cuts your way or you just fold up and go home, which is what the national party wants to do," she said. "It really is fear. It really is simply, 'We're not going to go there.' Now, you've got an issue that's in your platform, that cuts your way with big margins. To be silent is a mistake."

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