By Carol Long Tobias, NRL PAC Director
In every major election since 1980, pro-life candidates have had the advantage when it comes to voters and the abortion issue. Consistently, of those voters who select their candidate based on his or her abortion position, more will vote for the pro-life candidate than the pro-abortion candidate. These votes will come from men and women, Republicans and Democrats – – all segments of society.
In a close race, this “pro-life increment” – – more single-issue pro-life voters than single-issue pro-abortion voters – – can make the difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately, some pro-abortion candidates win because part of the pro-life community doesn’t help elect pro-life candidates, it helps defeat them. When pro-abortion candidates win, unborn babies lose.
So what could you do that would help defeat pro-life candidates?
1) Fall in love with your candidate.
We encourage pro-lifers to get involved in campaigns. Their active participation and volunteer activities can help a pro-life candidate build a strong campaign. It also puts the pro-lifer in contact with the candidate so that if he/she wins, the candidate can put a face to the pro-life community and a relationship can be built and strengthened.
However, too often pro-lifers get so wrapped up in their candidate that if he/she loses to another pro-life candidate (especially in a primary), the pro-life grassroots person becomes like the child who lost a game – – he takes his marbles and goes home. He doesn’t support the pro-life candidate who won and won’t volunteer in the campaign or work to get others to vote for that candidate. Pro-life candidates need the active support of all pro-lifers and, all too often, without that full support, a pro-abortion candidate wins.
2) Believe that your candidate is the only real pro-life candidate in the race and bash other pro-life candidates.
In a primary where there are several pro-life candidates, pro-life individuals will select the candidate they think is best. Then, unfortunately, all too often they will help to attack other pro-life candidates as not being “pro-life enough.” If another candidate has a 20-year pro-life voting record, they pick out the one or two votes that he didn’t vote right on and attack him as not being really pro-life. By doing this, the pro-lifer demoralizes other pro-lifers and weakens enthusiasm for the pro-life candidate who does win the primary. The pro-abortion candidate will, of course, use this.
Because some pro-lifers have attacked the successful pro-life candidate, the pro-abortion candidate will use that in pro-life circles to hold down support for his opponent. Ironically, at the same time, the pro-abortion candidate is going to other voters, attacking the pro-life candidate as a “radical pro-life extremist.”
3) Support a really nice candidate who is pro-life but has no chance of winning.
We’re talking about millions of unborn children whose lives are at stake. The viability of a candidate must be considered when we decide who to vote for. There are some wonderful pro-lifers, some even active in our chapters, who want to run for office. They should be given the chance to do so, but if it is apparent they can’t win, if they are running to make a statement or to get some publicity for the pro-life movement (or themselves), they need to be encouraged to step aside for a candidate who may not be as eloquent but who can actually win and take action to protect unborn children.
4) Expect the candidate to sound like a Right to Life chapter chairman.
People who are not directly involved in the pro-life movement are not going to be as articulate or well-versed on all the pro-life issues. They may not know about the abortifacient properties of RU 486 or understand the ins and outs of the Mexico City Policy.
Unless there has been some prior discussion, some candidates may not realize that there are certain “code words” that are interpreted differently by the pro-life community. Just because the wrong word comes out of his/her mouth doesn’t necessarily make the candidate a phony.
Sometimes a truly pro-life candidate can be tripped up by the media, confused, ill-informed, misquoted, or quoted out of context. Give him a chance to explain why he said what he did.
Many candidates are against abortion because they have a religious background that tells them abortion is wrong, or they have a natural instinct that wants to protect the babies. They will do what’s right when they’re elected, but that doesn’t mean they will be comfortable or eloquent talking about the killing of unborn babies.
Some of our strongest pro-life elected officials whose actions have helped to save hundreds of thousands of unborn babies are not articulate on pro-life issues. Remember, words are nice, action is better.
5) Expect the candidate to make abortion the top issue in the campaign.
A Voter Research and Survey exit poll in 1992 found that 13% of the voters said abortion was a top issue in deciding who to vote for. In 1996, a Wirthlin Worldwide poll found that 12% of the voters said abortion was a top issue for them. That can and does make a difference in the outcome of an election, but it also means that 87% and 88% of the voters had other issues that were more important to them.
In order to win, a candidate has to focus on several issues that will appeal to a broad variety of voters. In some races, making abortion an issue will help the candidate, but in some parts of the country, the pro-life candidate must be careful in what he says and how he says it. In most areas, the institutional news media is a powerful tool for the pro-abortion candidate. To always expect the candidate to make abortion the top issue in the campaign can be a sure way to lose an election.
6) Vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning.
When a general election is between a pro-life candidate and a pro-abortion candidate, representing established parties, there will be times when a third-party candidate will get into the race, claiming to be the “real” pro-lifer. He will attack the pro-life candidate and get other pro-lifers to jump on board.
This is a sure strategy to elect the pro-abortion candidate. Pro-lifers who support the third-party candidate, to the detriment of the pro-life candidate who could win, may feel like they have not compromised their principles – – but if they succeed in helping to elect a candidate who will act consistently to allow the killing of unborn babies to continue, they have compromised away something far more important – – children’s lives.