The pro-abortion rights group NARAL is launching a $5 million, 19-state campaign to flip the House of Representatives, targeting Republicans who have voted to restrict abortion but have rarely had serious Democratic challenges.
“This is the moment NARAL was made for,” said the group’s president, Ilyse Hogue. “We’re seeing and feeling a deep anxiety that is ginning up enthusiasm to take back the House as a buttress against Trump’s draconian agenda. It’s our job to translate it into wins.”
NARAL’s spending plan, the largest in the group’s 49-year history, will take it into most of this year’s battleground states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
The targets in those states will be Republicans who cast low-profile antiabortion votes, often on bills that were throttled by the Senate, but who represent districts with pro-abortion rights voters who often sit out midterm elections. Several, such as Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.), Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) are co-sponsors of the so-called “Personhood” bill, which would take aim at Roe v. Wade by legally stating that life begins at conception. Others have sponsored the “heartbeat” bill, which would effectively ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
Two sponsors of the latter bill, Pennsylvania’s Lou Barletta and Ohio’s James B. Renacci, are candidates for the Senate. In Wisconsin, another state where NARAL’s work could spill over into Senate races, both challengers to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have said they’d support both legislative efforts to limit abortion — a contrast from Baldwin’s first race in 2012, when her Republican challenger sought to run as a moderate.
“Voters are shocked when they find out how these guys are voting,” Hogue said. “When you tell them, at the very least it depresses their enthusiasm for supporting them. At best, it moves them toward another candidate.”
NARAL’s larger, earlier campaign investments are possible because of a fundraising surge that it and other liberal groups have seen since the 2016 election. In the week after Trump’s victory, NARAL reported donations from nearly 200,000 people, many jokingly dedicated to Vice President Pence. That was a 40-fold increase from its usual weekly donations. In the entire 2016 campaign, NARAL’s 501(c)4 and PAC spent a combined $1.3 million on general election candidates.