After the Massachusetts GOP’s decision to adopt a more moderate platform on abortion, some experts said this is a reaction to the defeat of the state’s Republican candidates during November’s election.
In an email Saturday, Tim Buckley, communications director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, confirmed that the Massachusetts GOP adopted former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s platform, which includes exceptions to abortions in cases of rape or incest. The national platform, which the GOP had backed until Tuesday, has no such exceptions.
“The Massachusetts GOP has long been an open tent, a more moderate body than the national organization,” Buckley said over the phone. “It’s no surprise that the state members decided to reject this more extreme take on some issues.”
Buckley said members voted nearly unanimously in a voice vote to adopt the measure on Nov. 13.
“The [abortion] issue was first raised at the September meeting of the Republican state committee,” Buckley said. “At that time it was decided to be tabled until after the election when folks have more time to kind of digest everything and look this national platform, over which is hundreds of pages long.”
The Massachusetts Republican Party revisits its platform principles every four years, Buckley said, and will do so in 2014.
Bruce Schulman, chair of the History Department at Boston University, said after the defeat of several Massachusetts Republican candidates during the election, the state’s GOP does not aim to associate with the national platform.
“The Massachusetts Republican Party suffered so much [this election] because it was identified with the national Republican Party, which is perceived by most Massachusetts residents as being too extreme,” Schulman said. “[The Massachusetts GOP’s] analysis is that Scott Brown lost the Senate race not because Massachusetts people didn’t like Scott Brown — in general they did — but because he was associated with the national Republican Party.”
Schulman said other state GOP’s in New England, where Republicans would not want to identify too closely with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, might change their position on abortion.
He also said he was not sure if swing states would change their positions.
Mark Zaccaria, chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, said he does not expect any changes to the state’s Republican Party’s position on abortion, which is “100-percent cessation” of abortions.
Zaccaria said statutes against abortion have not worked in the past.
“We tried that for decades — it was an abject failure,” Zaccaria said.
He said education with the goal of influencing people to make better decisions will lead to fewer abortions.
“That is the position of the Rhode Island GOP, and I don’t expect it to change,” Zaccaria said.
No changes on positions are under consideration in the swing state of Colorado, said Justin Miller, communications director of the Colorado Republican Committee.
“Right now, we are just cleaning up after the election,” Miller said.
Kathryn Brownell, a lecturer in the history department at BU, said the national Republican Party should reach out to women and minorities.
“We may see some really big changes in the Republican Party over the next two to four years,” Brownell said. “They have to realize that the coalition they had built can’t necessarily guarantee wins in the national election.”
Brownell said the Republican Party has relied successfully on a coalition of suburban white male voters and housewives in the Sunbelt since 1968.
Brownell added that President Barack Obama had the support of Latino voters and women this election and that Republicans will have to reach out to both of those groups.
“[Women] are a lot more open in terms of the question of abortion,” Brownell said. “Even those who support right to life are really thinking there may be some exceptions to this, so reaching out to women is really going to be important for the national Republican Party.”
Brownell said Democrats have been at the forefront of dealing with immigration.
“The governor of New Mexico [Susana Martinez], who is a Latino Republican, has really been pushing for the Republican Party to say we need to do something [about Latino voters],” Brownell said.
Brownell said she would not be surprised if the Republican Parties of swing states began to take more moderate positions. A number of swing voters identify as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, she said.
“The Republican Party still wants to keep that conservative coalition on social issues, but they will really want to play that down and really emphasize economic issues,” Brownell said.
Brownell said the Republican Party could go one of two ways. Some want moderate reforms, but Tea Party members said presidential candidate Mitt Romney was too moderate, and the Republican Party needs to return to its conservative roots, she said.
“Parties continually change,” Brownell said. “There are new demographics out there, and we will see how the Republican Party adapts.”