Politics

Anti-Abortion Group Worries Trump Will Depress Turnout Among 'Pro-Life Voters'

Susan B. Anthony List to help Mia Love mitigate Trump effect down ballot

Utah Rep. Mia Love is in a tough race against a well-funded Democratic opponent. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A leading anti-abortion group is undertaking a major effort to help one of the Republican Party's rising congressional stars, worried that Donald Trump's presence on the ticket could depress turnout among a key constituency — "pro-life voters."

The Susan B. Anthony List, acting through its super PAC Women Speak Out, is preparing a combination of digital ads, phone calls, and in-person voter contacts to support Rep. Mia Love, the Utah congresswoman locked in a tough race against a well-funded Democratic opponent. 

The effort will target voters who oppose abortion rights, encouraging them to turn out on Election Day to support the unabashedly anti-abortion Love. 

Normally, these voters would be reliable supporters of the congresswoman. But officials with the Susan B. Anthony List say that Trump's prior support for abortion rights, and misconceptions about where he stands on the issue now, have contributed to a pervasive lack of enthusiasm within the anti-abortion movement — one that could cause collateral damage to down-ballot Republicans running alongside him.  

"It could be a season where a lot of voters stay home unless we take the argument directly to them," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group's president. "What they need to know is their lingering concerns about the presidential [contest] shouldn’t affect their vote in the House race." 

The group plans to spend $100,000 on targeted digital ads and phone calls in support of Love, officials said. It also aims to have canvassers knock on 35,000 doors in the first-term lawmaker's 4th District in Utah by Election Day.

[Rating Change: Utah GOP Congresswoman Less Safe for Re-Election]

Love faces Democratic nominee Doug Owens, whom she defeated in 2014 by 5 percentage points, capturing just over 50 percent of the total vote. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates the race Republican Favored

The Susan B. Anthony List's support for Love, the only House member it plans to support with an independent expenditure this election, is about more than Trump.

Dannenfelser said she wants to show the group can support a close ally after successfully working to defeat Rep. Renee Ellmers's re-election bid earlier this year, the first time in the group's history that it endorsed a male GOP candidate over a Republican woman.  (The organization tries to elect women, usually Republicans, who oppose abortion rights, acting as a counterweight to the pro-abortion rights Democratic group EMILY's List.)

But the group is also deploying its ground game in three states that feature a competitive presidential and Senate race: North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. There, it plans to directly engage anti-abortion voters to support Trump despite his past apostasies on the subject. 

Dannenfelser said she's satisfied with Trump's current position on abortion rights, especially relative to Hillary Clinton's stance. The issue, she said, is letting the rank and file know that Trump promises to govern like an anti-abortion conservative.

"Pro-life voters need an extra spark of reassurance that Trump is on their side," Dannenfelser said. "They need that in the presidential [race], we know that, that’s why we’re doing it."

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.