In Election ’08, “Pro-Life” Not Enough for Iowa GOP


Many issues
and factors influenced the outcome of the 2008 general election, both
nationally and on the local level, but this year, in Iowa at least,
social conservatism — especially as it pertains to issues of
reproductive health and abortion — seemed to carry less sway than in
campaigns past.

When the votes in Iowa were tallied, 70 percent of the 63 candidates endorsed by the Freedom Fund Political Action Committee, supported by Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, won their seats. Only four out of 10 state candidates endorsed by the Iowa Right to Life Coalition were elected.

In this election, just as in previous elections, those who sought to
ban abortion used letter-writing campaigns to their advantage. The
majority of letters to the editor dealing with reproductive health
across the state were anti-abortion rights, for instance.

But despite the letters, voters appeared to turn away from socially divisive issues when making their decisions this year.

For example, Danny Carroll, a Republican candidate in Iowa House
District 75 who lost Tuesday, actively campaigned on an anti-abortion
message. His campaign sent two separate letters to voters that focused
on an anti-abortion message, both from national anti-abortion groups
like the National Pro-Life Alliance.

Dr. David Hartsuch, a Republican who lost his bid for U.S. House in
the 1st District, used the Des Moines Register Soap Box at the Iowa
State Fair to declare that “abortion is the leading controllable cause
of breast cancer in America.” In addition to using the already debunked claim, Hartsuch ran on his anti-abortion record in Iowa Senate and even accused Arizona Sen. John McCain of barring him from an event because of Hartsuch’s strong social conservative stances.

If Hartsuch’s intention was to draw attention to the Republican
presidential ticket’s lack of long-term support on social conservative
issues, his efforts were likely thwarted by Iowa Right to Life’s
leafleting of the Des Moines metro area with flyers that touted the
McCain-Palin ticket.

Overall, it’s a touchy subject for Iowa Republicans, who ousted some
moderates from top party offices during their summer convention in
favor of others closely aligned with social conservative groups. Kim
Lehman, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, and Steve Scheffler,
president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, now serve as the state’s two
representatives on the Republican National Committee and on the
Republican State Central Committee.

“If we’ve not bottomed out, if this isn’t bottomed out, this is what
it looks like,” former Polk County Republican Chairman Ted Sporer told WHO-TV.

In the same piece Stewart Iverson, current Republican Party
chairman, said that he sometimes thinks Republicans have “forgotten
what we stand for.”

Perhaps the most telling statements in regard to the 2008 election
and hot-button socially conservative issues, however, came from a letter written by Joy Corning, a former Iowa lieutenant governor and Iowa captain of the Republican Leadership Council.

“How can any group or person assume that a political candidate is pro-abortion?” Corning asked, referring to an Iowa Right to Life Coalition newsletter article that blasted 2nd District Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks as a “great pretender.”

“Pro-life can and does mean pro-choice to great numbers of
Republicans,” Corning wrote. “It means they want government to let
individual citizens decide on matters best left to each person’s
dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility. … We are defined by
principles that have been our foundation since the time of Lincoln —
limited government, strong defense, fiscal responsibility,
self-determination and opportunity. We are not defined by a National
Right to Life survey.”

Iowa Democrats will continue to control the House (at least 56-44),
Senate (at least 31-19), and Gov. Chet Culver is a Democrat. Only two
statewide offices in Iowa are controlled by Republicans — Secretary of
Agriculture and State Auditor. Neither of those offices were on the
2008 ballot.

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