Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion is a bit irritated by the absence of tough questions to “pro-choice” candidates. Abortion, it seems, is not playing a role in the election.
that last debate showed us that neither candidate disagrees with each other on the U.S. policy of using drones to target terrorists. Does that mean that since it’s not a campaign issue, it shouldn’t be covered? Hardly. I think the press can rightly judge certain topics of importance meriting coverage even if votes aren’t being won or lost on them. But, again, that’s not even the case with abortion coverage.
The answer may lie in cold-hearted political reality: abortion has lost its edge as a wedge issue. That is, most of the votes that would be dislodged by it have already been dislodged. The 20 percent who absolutely opposed are not likely to vote Dem in any case. So functionally, then attention to abortion and life issues in an electoral context are more a matter of base mobilization, of getting true believers out to vote. The question of mobilization was touched on by the WSJ earlier on Oct. 22, Romney Supporters Make Push for Evangelical Voters.
Several other observations may be in order. If questions about abortion are no longer a wedge, then the Dems of course, have free reign on the issue — for them, as for evangelicals, the issue may best serve as a base mobilization tactic. Second, if the question of abortion itself becomes old hat, then the news stories naturally want to migrate to the extremes — this would explain the coverage of Akin and Mourdock. In focusing on extreme cases, the Left here is following a similar path to that laid down on late term abortions by the Right.
And last, the lack of attention on abortion generally may be governed by the dynamic of the Republican campaign itself, where Gov. Romney is at best an imperfect carrier of the pro-life cause. The framing of this election as one centered on the economy and fundamental philosophical differences degrades the role of abortion, if for not other reason than such approaches muscle out such social concerns.