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Fox News host Sean Hannity

(LifeSiteNews) — Instead of any serious accounting of the actual reasons why a much-anticipated “red wave” failed to materialize and deliver Republicans control of Congress in November 2022, leading voices in the GOP and their swampier allies in conservative media have decided it’s easier to just scapegoat the gravest moral cause and most devoted faction of the conservative coalition: opposition to abortion. This week, Fox News primetime mainstay Sean Hannity lent his voice to the chorus urging Republicans to moderate on the issue in the name of political expediency.

Hannity, who back in August suggested that former President Bill Clinton’s infamous “safe, legal, and rare” formulation was a good model for Republicans and a few years earlier had left the Catholic Church, which does not give the faithful the option of declaring abortion is acceptable as long as it’s “very early in pregnancy,” claimed Tuesday that moderating on life is the key to success:

‘I would argue, and I think I’m right, in 2022 Republicans were not prepared for how the Democrats would demagogue the issue of abortion,’ Hannity said during Fox’s coverage of Super Tuesday. ‘And I understand people have very strong convictions. However looking at it strictly from a political point of view, and I believe in the sanctity of life… politically the country is probably where Dobbs was at 15 weeks.’

Hannity criticized failed Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who as part of his campaign was vocally supportive of a near-total ban on abortion.

‘Republicans need to understand that if they pick somebody like they did in ’22… like other people he made no exceptions, that’s a mistake,’ he continued. ‘They’ve got to have an answer for the millions and millions of dollars that will be spent on ads about abortion.’

Hannity, a Trump supporter, said he was ‘very happy’ to see the former president come out in support of in vitro fertilization.

READ: Sean Hannity calls for ‘legal’ abortion in stunning reversal of pro-life stance

It is true that a 15-week ban is popular ground nationally for Republicans, that polls show a little under half the country is prepared to ban abortion from conception with exceptions and that the no-exceptions stance is far less popular, and that numerous 2022 candidates handled the issue abysmally. It is not, however, true that scrambling to appease the squishiest parts of the electorate would make things better.

For one thing, it’s not being overly strong that sank the Republicans most associated with abortion. Scott Jensen in Minnesota and Blake Masters of Arizona, for instance, changed their positions from the primary to the general so transparently and clumsily that they impressed nobody, indicating deeper defects of judgment and ability that doomed their campaigns. The April after the midterms, Democrats carpet-bombed Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly with ads hitting him on abortion, but he never ran a single ad fighting back; in fact, his website boasted that he “does not discuss his views on abortion.” He also lost by roughly the same margin that he lost by in 2020, further reinforcing that abortion’s heightened political relevance post-Roe was not the key variable.

As for Mastriano, it’s true that he lost his race in Pennsylvania 41.7 percent to Democrat Josh Shapiro’s 56.5 percent, which was a notably wider margin than the far more liberal Mehmet Oz’s 46.3 percent  to 51.2 percent loss to Democrat John Fetterman on the same ballot. But Fetterman couldn’t be bothered to dress professionally and struggled to put together coherent sentences on the campaign trail, which surely alarmed many voters who were fine with Shapiro, and the fact that he won anyway indicates far deeper left-wing biases in union-strong Pennsylvania than “it’s all abortion!” captures.

Stepping back from individual cases and looking at the overall midterm picture, it’s even clearer that pro-abortion fears were not a massive or insurmountable factor. No state that enacted a near-total abortion ban prior to November 2022 flipped the governor or legislature responsible, and to the extent that any consistent bias could be gleaned, it was in favor of incumbency, regardless of party or abortion position – 94% of existing officeholders kept their seats.

READ: Pro-life, pro-family Republicans actually won massive victories in the midterms

So being clearly pro-life isn’t a political death sentence. But wouldn’t it still be safer to stake out the abortion stance with the strongest appeal? No. What shallow diagnoses like Hannity’s always fail to grasp is that the voters in the middle who decide elections don’t do so by robotically plugging their positions into a calculator, such that whoever’s views are most popular automatically wins. 

Rather, they vote for people, messy and complex assemblages of position, record, qualifications, personality, warts, and message, filtered through whatever a voter’s biggest concerns and priorities happen to be. In just about every election, whoever wins has something deeply unpopular about him – maybe a political position, maybe a past scandal, maybe he’s notoriously obnoxious, maybe he’s in obvious cognitive decline. They win anyway not because their images and platforms are finely calibrated to alienate the fewest people humanly possible, but because they convince enough people they would be better for their lives on net than the other guy.

What that means in practice for pro-life candidates is they have to be both principled and savvy enough to parry inevitable pro-abortion attacks by tossing Democrats’ own unpopular, extremist stances and sell a central message focused on voters’ most immediate concerns, while simply not giving pro-life voters any reason to doubt they will do the right thing for the preborn once in office.

It’s that last part that makes advice like Hannity’s so dangerous. We are currently living through a political moment where serious, committed conservatives have less reason to trust the officeholders representing them than any time in recent memory. Pro-lifers have gotten used to holding their noses for candidates they dislike in many ways on the belief that at least they’ll come down on the side of life. For Republicans to start telling those voters to expect them to preemptively compromise with the abortion lobby is essentially daring them to decide holding their noses is no longer worth it – all for new voters that recent history tells us they won’t get anyway. 

Most pro-life Americans have common sense. They know how many other issues are going on in America and how much of the electorate has been brainwashed by the abortion lobby. They don’t need false promises that a candidate will completely end abortion in a single term. But not tossing the pro-life cause under the bus at the first sign of difficulty isn’t too much to ask.

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Calvin Freiburger is a Wisconsin-based conservative writer and 2011 graduate of Hillsdale College. His commentary and analysis have been featured on NewsReal Blog, Live Action, and various other conservative websites. Before joining LifeSiteNews, he spent two years in Washington, DC, working to build support for the Life at Conception Act with the National Pro-Life Alliance, then worked a year and a half as assistant editor of You can follow him on Twitter @CalFreiburger, and check out his Substack: