By Philip Elliott
WASHINGTON: Calling their opponents Satan worshippers and savages, anti-abortion lawmakers on Wednesday insisted that Republican contenders keep an intense focus on social issues in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Like many abortion opponents, the Susan B. Anthony List is in search of a White House contender who won’t shy from social issues after back-to-back presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 who focused their campaigns on the economy and came up short. Several potential 2016 candidates were making their pitches in blunt terms, urging the group members to stick to their principles and fight those who would stand in their way.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who is a favorite of the tea party, said supporters of abortion rights chant “Hail, Satan” to silence their enemies.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said those who support abortion rights favor a “culture of death” and engage in “savagery.”
And GOP Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska told the activists: “Abortion is not a women’s issue. It is not a men’s issue. It is not a health care issue. It is a violence issue.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, was due to take his turn later at the group’s gala dinner.
In the 2014 campaign for the Senate, Republican hopeful Greg Brannon of North Carolina stood by his previous claims that pro-abortion rights groups contemplate infanticide. Brannon, an obstetrician backed by several tea party groups, said that killing babies who survived abortions could happen in America, according to a video posted by Mother Jones magazine.
The unflinching rhetoric comes as the potential 2016 presidential contenders attempt to make inroads with the GOP’s socially conservative wing. That bloc — which enjoys outsized influence in deciding the nominee — is open to many of the potential White House candidates but has yet to rally behind one of them.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll published this month, 50 percent of conservative Republicans and 46 percent of white evangelical Protestants said they would consider voting for Cruz. Huckabee drew potential support among 50 percent of conservatives and 44 percent of evangelicals.
Other candidates who did not speak to the abortion summit fared about as well. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, hardly a social warrior, drew potential consideration of 45 percent of conservative Republicans and 40 percent of evangelicals. And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would be considered by 52 percent of conservative Republicans and 43 percent of evangelicals.
The key for these voters is backing a 2016 candidate who opposes abortion.
“One of the biggest prizes in 2016 will be who picks the next Supreme Court judges,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
But Graham acknowledged it will be tough.
“We are having problems growing the Republican Party in a demographically changing America,” Graham said.