With Santorum out of the race, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama have already started trading jabs as the general election campaigning begins. Romney has tried to pass some of the buck of the War on Women to Obama, using a flawed and selective analyses of the economy during Obama’s term.
But if Romney is out to convince women voters – a diverse voting bloc that adds over one million new voters per year – that he’s their candidate, he’s going to have an even tougher time now than ever before. Yesterday, the radical anti-choice group the Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Mitt Romney, and pledged to spend $10 million on the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney has yet to address his controversial new backer, and likely will not as he attempts to court the evangelical and pro-life vote.
What is The Susan B Anthony List?
Susan B. Anthony’s List is the bizarro world version of Emily’s List. Emily’s List is an organization dedicated to fundraising on behalf of progressive women in order to get them elected to public office. The bizarro world version of that would be an anti-choice organization that specifically targets the women supported by Emily’s List by giving money to anti-choice contenders of both genders. The SBAL is that organization.
Susan B. Anthony’s List was originally dedicated to electing vehemently anti-choice women in response to the 1992 “Year of the Woman” success of Emily’s List. The SBA stated that its mission was to support anti-choice women in their quest to hold public office. And though Susan B. Anthony actually said very little – if anything – about the politics of abortion, the boject of having women be equal players in politics and elected office is one quite paramount to Susan B. Anthony’s ideals.
But the SBA quickly changed tact, opting to outspend its pro-choice counterpart NOW by funding the campaigns of anti-choice political hopefuls that are no longer just women. The SBA List has recently stated that its primary objective is to simply beat Emily’s List candidates in any way they can – you know, those progressive candidates who are all women. And they did so in 2010 by supporting 13 anti-choice men in addition to 30 anti-choice women, making more than 25% of those receiving funding from the “Pro-Life Woman’s Organization” men. One of the races the SBA List became involved with pitted an anti-choice Republican man against an anti-Choice Democrat woman. If you guessed that the SBA List funded the man, you’d be correct.
And that’s not the only way the organization spends its millions. The SBAL holds several high profile anti-choice events per year, and has invited high-profile speakers like Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin. The organization also focuses on effectively blacklisting incredibly anti-abortion elected officials for what they see as betrayals of the movement. For example, the group publicly stripped Rep. Bart Stupak of their prestigious and not at all made up title of “Defender of Life” when he voted for the Affordable Care Act. Their reason? The ACA’s failure to restate a stricter version of the Hyde Amendment. That’s right, Bart Stupak isn’t even pro-life enough for these people because he supported a law that didn’t codify a law that is already codified.
The SBAL has already dipped its toe in the waters of the 2012 election. The organization has already spent more than $500,000 for tv and radio ads supporting Rick Santorum, and has now stated that they expect to spend between $10 and $12 in the general election.
Following Santorum’s exit from the race, the organization has fully endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Their official statement claims that, “On pro-life issues, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama provide a stark contrast. As the country’s most pro-abortion president, Barack Obama has pursued a radical pro-abortion agenda”. And with that flip-flop of a statement, it seems the SBAL has more in common with Mitt Romney than being “pro-life”.
It was just a few weeks ago that the SBAL did not think so highly of Romney’s record on the matter of reproductive rights, which is far more dubious than Bart Stupak. (Stupak, for instance, has never said that abortion should be safe and legal.) While not airing any negative ads about Romney – an adept political move on the organization’s part – SBAL’s ads pointedly noted that, “For people who care about the right to life, Rick Santorum is the only candidate for president”. The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, stated that ending abortion was at the core of Santorum’s campaign and vision, and that “Romney certainly has not been the leader that Santorum has”.
The SBAL is a radical organization, but also a smart one. Having seen the writing on the wall, the group immediately endorsed Romney the day Santorum dropped out of the race. Other conservative organizations – and even Santorum himself – still have yet to endorse the presumptive Republican nominee. And this failure to get on board is not only damaging to the Romney campaign and GOP as a whole, but also to major organizations that want to have some power over the direction of Romney’s campaign. These groups may be hoping that Romney will work harder to try to appease them, but the SBAL seems to be aware that Romney’s campaign will go where the money is – and they’re waving around $10 to $12 million worth of direction.
More anti-choice pressure on the horizon
The endorsement from the Susan B. Anthony List is more a pressure on Romney to fall in line than it is a true endorsement. Romney does not fit the criteria for being a “Defender of Life”, and the SBAL knows it. Romney was one of the few GOP candidates that declined to sign the SBAL’s anti-choice pledge (only he and Cain refused to sign the pledge, pictured below).
Other anti-choice interest groups are likely to follow the SBAL and sign on to Romney as part of an “anyone but Obama” strategy for the fall. One group, Concerned Women for America, has already done just that, despite their initial enthusiasm for Santorum. That group has even joined Romney in turning Democrat consultant Hilary Rosen’s recent gaffe into a fundraising opportunity.
It’s unclear whether these groups will be able to strong-arm Romney into signing any of the views they espouse into law, or if they will simply be content with getting a Planned Parenthood supporter out of the Oval Office. Regardless, the involvement of these groups signals that the end of Santorum’s campaign was not the end of campaigning on social issues in 2012.