McCain: Let's leave abortion alone and focus on comprehensive immigration reform

I never understood what Mitch Daniels had in mind, specifically, when he called for a truce on social issues but at least he was aiming at both sides. Not so McCain. He’s in all-out post-election concessions mode here, looking to solve the GOP’s problems with Latinos and young women in one fell niche-policy swoop. When he says we should leave abortion alone, I think what he means is that the Akins and Mourdocks of tomorrow should maybe try to resist the urge to free-associate about rape in public. But I’m curious to know where he was headed with this thought, which, as you’ll see, was abruptly interrupted: “As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don’t think anybody like me…” Normally, a sentence like that uttered in the context of abortion ends with “… should be telling them what they can do with their bodies.” Last I checked, McCain opposes legalized abortion, but here he sounds perilously close to being personally pro-life but legislatively pro-choice. Has he finally gone full Maverick?

If this is what it looks like, i.e. McCain pandering transparently to solve a Republican demographic problem, it isn’t very precise. The GOP’s challenge isn’t that they’ve lost women voters, it’s that they’ve lost minority voters. Romney won white women by a sizable margin over O:

He also won comfortably with young white voters of both genders:

He lost the election because he lost with every other group by huge margins, men and women alike. And that trend means certain doom for the party if it continues because minority voters, especially young adults, are becoming a larger share of the electorate:

Follow that last link and check out the numbers among different age groups on hot button issues, including abortion. In McCain’s defense, it’s true that young voters are most supportive of abortion as a group, but they’re not wildly more supportive than other age groups. Sixty-four percent of 18-29-year-olds think it should be legal in all or most cases; among the 45-64 age group it’s 60 percent and among 30-44 it’s 58 percent. The real gaps among young voters come on gay marriage — they’re 16 points more likely to favor it than the next-highest age group — and on the ominous question of whether government should do more or is doing too much. In that case, fully 59 percent of young voters say “do more”; the next-highest age group stands at just 45 percent. In other words, if you’re keen to pander to the 18-29 crowd, your best bet is probably to “evolve” on gay marriage, not abortion, and even then you’ll have to confront the problem of winning over a generation that seems considerably more statist in general than most of the electorate. And of course you’ll also have to explain how your gay marriage “evolution” will net you more votes among young adults than it’ll lose you among social conservatives. Better think of something, though: According to Pew, Romney actually defeated Obama, 50/48, among voters over age 30. O won reelection entirely on the strength of his overwhelming advantage among the young.

As for McCain’s call for comprehensive immigration reform, he seems to be the only person left on the political landscape who thinks ramming it through might move the GOP’s numbers meaningfully among Latino voters. In fact, that’s not fair; I don’t think even he believes that. I think he’s simply using the GOP’s consternation over its deficit with Latinos to push a policy he’s supported on the merits for years. Ah well. For your viewing pleasure, here are three clips showing him at his Mavericky best. The first is from yesterday; the second is from his appearance with Rick Warren in 2008, sounding every inch the uncompromising pro-life president; and the third is from his Maverick 1.0 campaign in 1999, insisting that he’s pro-life and supports overturning Roe — but not right now, because that would lead to back-alley abortions. Not sure what he had in mind as an alternative (gradual phase-in of prohibition to give women a heads-up?) but it sure sounds mavericky.