Dick Morris at CPAC: It's time for the GOP to give up on overturning Roe v. Wade

Dick Morris would never steer you wrong, would he?

I’m going to trust that TPM has relayed his comments accurately, but if anyone has a transcript please send it along.

The harder sell came in his next prescription: Give up on Roe v. Wade.

In order to win back young women, Morris argued that Republicans should stop trying to make abortion illegal and instead focus on a bipartisan effort to reduce the instances of abortion.

“Single white women run screaming from the Republican Party, largely because of our pro-life position,” Morris said. Morris stressed that Republicans can remain pro-life in principle, but needed to shift their focus away from the courts and embrace polices like “adoption, adoption tax incentives, birth control, abstinence, parental notification, parental support … a whole range of efforts, some sponsored by the right, some sponsored by the left.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade, he said, was “a case we’re never going to win.”

It’s true that the public generally opposes overturning Roe and has for a long time. It’s also true that there’s currently a small gender gap on the question of abortion, although there hasn’t been much of one traditionally. See Ramesh Ponnuru’s piece from last year on that. Although more women than usual identified as “pro-choice” in 2012, they were still outnumbered by women who identified as “pro-life.” (At least one recent poll suggests growing support for making abortion legal in all or most circumstances but the poll’s accuracy is, naturally, disputed.) Not only that but, per Ramesh, pro-choice Republican politicians tend to face gender gaps in exit polls similar to their pro-life Republican counterparts. They’re not gaining anything by switching on Roe.

But even if Morris is right and it turns out the GOP could pick up a few points among young women by switching on legal abortion, where’s the data showing that they wouldn’t lose at least as many social conservatives in the process? If you’re looking to liberalize the party on social issues to make it more salable to young adults, you’re much, much, much better off as a matter of coalition-building by focusing on gay marriage and drug policy than on abortion. There’s no political argument that’ll move someone who believes that abortion is the murder of an innocent child, nor should there be. If the GOP leadership even suggested maneuvering on the issue for electoral gain, the way they have on immigration, the backlash would be ferocious and likely ruinous. Granted, Morris isn’t talking about abandoning the pro-life cause, just the legal framework that would prohibit abortion, but I doubt that’d reassure pro-life voters. “Let’s try to talk people out of killing their kids instead of criminalizing the practice” is not a message of which winning majorities are made. But then, this is the same guy who believes this:

“I’ve done extensive polling and found that while Latinos demand immigration reform and are suspicious that it isn’t passing because of bias, once you get rid of immigration, they’re a Republican group,” Morris said. “When we asked do you agree or disagree that Democrats are closer to leaders in Latin America in terms of giving handout to get votes, 59 percent agree. The Republican Party has a tremendous ability to make inroads.”

So … the old canard about Latinos being Republicans who just don’t know it yet is true? And that comprehensive immigration reform is the magic bullet that’s going to set it in motion? Imagine Chuck Schumer’s surprise when he finds out his attempt make voters of millions of illegals via a path to citizenship has totally, epically backfired. Or better yet, go read Harry Enten’s post at the Guardian from a few months ago rounding up the data on why Latinos really vote as they do. Hint: Immigration doesn’t have much to do with it.

In lieu of an exit question, take 90 seconds to watch this clip of Morris from last February, just as Romney was gearing up for his inexorable march to a landslide victory. No comment necessary.