GOP leaders seek base-driving narratives: The Note

This week saw efforts from Republicans aiming to put their party on offense.

September 16, 2022, 6:06 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

If the point was to make a point, the mission has already been accomplished.

That's not the same as saying the midterms look any different than they did before a few prominent Republican figures made major political moves that sure look like stunts, even if they carry significant messaging and human impact.

It is to say that they are trying to establish a new set of narratives. This week was marked by efforts from several Republicans -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham -- aiming to put their party on offense.

For Graham, it was a bill banning almost all abortions after 15 weeks nationwide, a move that drew praise for its clarity from anti-abortion groups and former Vice President Mike Pence, among others. But pushback also came from inside Graham’s party -- from lawmakers and candidates who want abortion rights figured out state by state and would rather be talking about high inflation anyway -- and also well outside of it.

Meanwhile, DeSantis and Abbott went further in dueling yet complementary efforts to transport immigrants far beyond their states, in protest of what they call Democrats' border policies. Abbott dispatched buses that deposited would-be asylum seekers outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence in Washington, while DeSantis flew a group of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard -- an elite enclave where former President Barack Obama has a home, drawing sharp outcry from some locals.

The maneuvering comes ahead of House Republicans' rollout of their promised "Commitment to America" next week -- a collection of proposals designed to showcase what the GOP is for, and not just what it's against.

Taken together, the actions point to an emerging consensus: The midterms -- if not all elections these days -- are about motivating a party base more than reaching out to an elusive middle.

PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters at a campaign stop in Geneva, Fla., Aug. 4, 2022.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters at a campaign stop in Geneva, Fla., Aug. 4, 2022.
LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Republican governors aren't the only ones making political moves that could raise their national profile ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking on the issue of abortion far outside of the Golden State’s borders. Funded by his gubernatorial campaign, Newsom has put up 18 billboards in seven states with abortion restrictions and bans: Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.

The billboards call on viewers to visit California's government site that provides information about how to get an abortion there, if needed.

"Here is my message to any woman seeking abortion care in these anti-freedom states: Come to California," said Newsom.

Additionally, Newsom is calling on the federal government to investigate if migrants were transported to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses, with the governor warning that the actions could -- in his view -- potentially constitute kidnapping.

“I strongly urge the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into possible civil violations of federal law based on this fraudulent scheme. In particular I urge US DOJ to investigate whether the alleged fraudulent inducement would support charges of kidnapping under relevant state laws which could serve a predicate offense for charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970,” Newsom said in a statement.

He is considered a potential 2024 contender -- speculation he has played down -- and though putting up billboards is clearly a less extreme measure than transporting migrants with no communication to localities unprepared to receive them, this move arguably has the same effect. It puts the governor in the middle of an issue that animates his party’s base, fighting the perceived wrongdoing of the opposition party, which could boost him later on in a presidential primary.

That is, if he decides to run.

PHOTO: Governor of California Gavin Newsom speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sept. 7, 2022.
Governor of California Gavin Newsom speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sept. 7, 2022.
Jerod Harris/Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The most high-profile item facing the Senate this week -- a vote on same-sex marriage legislation -- was officially put on the back burner until after this fall's midterm elections. Despite the delay, lawmakers involved with negotiations surrounding the bill expressed optimism about its eventual passage.

"We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill," the involved senators said in a statement on Thursday.

As reported by ABC News' Capitol Hill team, when asked if she was disappointed in the months-long delay, lead Republican sponsor Susan Collins said, "No. I think we're in very good shape, very good shape, and I think this bill is going to pass." She added: "I think we managed to thread the needle on the religious liberty concerns."

In recent days, the issue of religion emerged as a sticking point as it related to the proposed legislation among Republicans running in key 2022 Senate races. In some cases, incumbent senators like Florida's Marco Rubio and Wisconsin's Ron Johnson appeared to be at odds with fellow party members newly running for office in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Heading into the end of the week, it was unclear whether the marriage legislation would receive the necessary 10 Republicans votes to overcome a filibuster. Given the political circumstances, retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt told reporters the move to push back the vote was “wise.”

"I think if you do it after the election, it's clearly not something that you're doing just for political purpose, and I think people will think about it more thoughtfully because of that -- and a handful of them are likely to decide to be somewhere after the election that they wouldn't have been with a vote that was purely -- at least likely -- a political ploy," Blunt said.

PHOTO: Sen. Susan Collins attends a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing about the federal response to monkeypox, on Capitol Hill, September 14, 2022.
Sen. Susan Collins attends a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing about the federal response to monkeypox, on Capitol Hill, September 14, 2022.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

7. That's the number of reasons that FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver is skeptical that we can say with any certainty that the polls will be wrong again in 2022. Read more from Nate on why polling error in 2016 and 2020 might not mean anything for 2022.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr, who explains the impact of migrants, transported from the southern border, who have arrived in his district on Martha's Vineyard. Then Col. Stephen Ganyard describes how the meeting of Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping can be read against the background of the Ukranian conflict. And, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports on a wedding website designer who is fighting for her right to refuse service in the face of Colorado's anti-discrimination law.


  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefs at 1 p.m. ET.
  • Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha visit a vaccination clinic and receive their updated vaccines at 11 a.m. ET.
  • ABC’s “This Week” Roundtable: Former North Dakota Senator and ABC News Contributor Heidi Heitkamp, Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence Marc Short, Washington Post Congressional Reporter Marianna Sotomayor, and POLITICO Associate Editor for Global Politics & Columnist, Alex Burns.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back next week for the latest.

Related Topics