How One Republican Primary Race Showed The Strength Of Trump’s Pro-Life Power Play By Madeline Osburn for The Federalist
Less than two decades ago, President Donald Trump described himself as “pro-choice in every respect.” He’s now the most pro-life president in modern history, rolling back Obama-era abortion funding, and nominating conservative Supreme Court justices. Critics and conservatives alike remain skeptical that he is personally pro-life, yet pro-lifers offer him fervent support due to his policies. However transactional his evolution on the issue seems, it may be having a broader effect down the ballot.
Rep. Kay Granger is the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, and represents the 12th district of Texas, which encompasses half of Tarrant County, the most reliably red, urban county in the Lone Star state. Republicans were shocked when Tarrant country flipped blue in the 2018 Senate race, voting for Democrat Beto O’Rourke over incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz.
It’s surprising then, that Granger’s primary opponent this election cycle was not someone looking to appeal to the growing number of moderate, suburban voters in Fort Worth, the 13th largest city in the United States, but someone even further to her right. Chris Putnam, who was backed by the conservative Club for Growth, ultimately lost to Granger on Super Tuesday, with 42 percent of the vote to Granger’s 58 percent, but gave her her toughest primary race since she took office more than 20 years ago.
Putnam accused the incumbent of not being aligned with Trump, even though Granger earned Trump’s endorsement. He called her “too Washington,” and hammered on her a boondoggle construction project on the Trinity River just north of downtown Fort Worth. Residents have complained about its overrun budgets and missed deadlines for years. Lastly, Putnam put the spotlight on Granger’s history as a pro-choice Republican.
After her tenure as a popular mayor of Fort Worth in the early ’90s, Granger was recruited by both Democrats and Republicans to run for the open House seat in 1996. Despite voting for several pro-choice bills in the early 2000s, including a vote against the Mexico City Policy that prohibits funding for abortion internationally, it never seemed to be an issue for conservative voters of her red district, who voted for her 12 terms.
But as Democrats moved the line from “safe, legal, and rare” to “#ShoutYourAbortion,” the issue moved to the front of the culture war, forcing politicians to move out of grey areas. In the same way there is no longer room for pro-life Democrats in their increasingly progressive party, Trump’s GOP is increasingly hostile to “pro-choice Republicans,” a label Granger gave herself in a 2007 MSNBC interview. Putnam used the MSNBC clip in attack ads against Granger, and the “pro-choice Republican” charge became a problem for Granger in the tight race.