Abortion is a top concern for Trump as he considers his VP pick

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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Last period astatine Mar-a-Lago, erstwhile President Donald Trump was eating connected nan outdoor patio, engaging successful his regular wont of stopping by nan tables of nine members and talking astir immoderate rumor was apical of mind. 

On this day, nan GOP’s challenges connected nan rumor of abortion became nan attraction erstwhile a personnel brought up nan midterm elections and nan deed Republicans took complete reproductive rights. According to a root who was present, nan personnel told Trump to prime a moving mate who isn’t excessively hard-line connected nan issue. Trump past began making nan rounds polling his meal guests astir abortion and nan veepstakes.

In particular, he asked nan diners — who included his run aides and nine members — what they thought of nan vocal anti-abortion-rights views of Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Would they move disconnected voters?

According to 2 sources adjacent to Trump, including nan personification astatine nan dinner, Trump has been laser-focused connected nan abortion issue, particularly erstwhile it comes to his vice statesmanlike pick. He sees it arsenic nan 1 awesome advantage for Democrats and a vulnerability for Republicans. 

“The president understands it arsenic a treacherous rumor — 1 that you tin really travel up and autumn connected your look with,” said nan source, a personification acquainted pinch his thinking. The personification added that Trump would astir apt not consequence picking “someone pinch a six-week prohibition successful their discussions aliases personification without immoderate committedness connected nan exceptions.”

In summation to Scott, nan 2nd root said, Trump has been asking astir wherever different imaginable vice statesmanlike contenders guidelines connected abortion, specifically naming Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. 

“He’s concerned it will person a resistance connected nan summons if they’re seen arsenic holding excessively staunch a position,” nan personification said. 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has often been discussed arsenic a imaginable vice statesmanlike prime for Trump. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has often been discussed arsenic a imaginable vice statesmanlike prime for Trump. Matt Rourke / AP record

The 2 sources said it has been a constituent of chat among advisers and donors, arsenic well, pinch group waving immoderate reddish and yellowish flags for definite shortlisters. 

The candidates astir often mentioned pinch immoderate interest are Scott and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. 

Noem’s squad confirmed to NBC News that she met pinch Trump astatine Mar-a-Lago connected Feb. 26, but it declined to disclose immoderate specifications astir nan conversation. Her authorities was among those pinch trigger bans that took effect aft nan Dobbs determination overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion is now wholly banned there, pinch an objection only to prevention nan life of nan woman. 

She has called herself an “absolutist” connected nan issue, and she defended her state’s deficiency of rape and incest exceptions erstwhile she was asked in a CNN interview whether a 10-year-old rape unfortunate should beryllium forced to springiness birth. Last year, Noem told CBS News that her state’s prohibition connected abortion is “a exemplary for nan Republican Party.”

“I’m pro-life, nevertheless arsenic a mom and grandma, I want to thief moms and families done immoderate difficult business they whitethorn beryllium facing,” Noem said successful a connection to NBC News. “We person to talk astir this difficult rumor pinch bosom and pinch compassion. We don’t triumph by hiding from nan conversation. Women connected some sides consciousness powerfully astir nan issue. But nan women I talk to mundane astir nan state are much concerned astir really Joe Biden’s America is making it harder for their kids and grandkids to execute nan American Dream.”

Kristi Noem astatine nan Conservative Political Action ConferenceSouth Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has called herself an "absolutist" connected nan rumor of abortion.John Raoux / AP file

South Carolina doesn’t person an all-out prohibition for illustration South Dakota, but it precocious passed a fetal heartbeat prohibition that outlaws abortion astatine astir six weeks — a clip erstwhile galore women don’t moreover cognize they are pregnant. 

Scott is on nan grounds praising nan six-week ban; he called it “good news” past year. In an interview successful April 2023, he near nan doorway unfastened for specified a prohibition astatine nan national level. Scott said he would “sign nan astir blimpish pro-life authorities that they tin get done Congress.” 

Asked whether he would motion it moreover if it were a six-week ban, he declined to supply a number of weeks but said he would backmost immoderate blimpish abortion measure Congress could get to his desk. In his campaign motorboat video, he vowed to “protect nan correct to life,” and astatine nan first GOP superior debate, he said he would support a national abortion ban, saying, “We must lick that rumor pinch a 15-week limit, astatine a minimum.” 

In an question and reply pinch The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston, South Carolina, he said he would support exceptions to abortion successful cases of rape aliases incest and instances successful which nan life of nan female was astatine risk.

He was besides captious of Trump connected abortion during nan campaign, telling Fox News, “I deliberation nan erstwhile president is incorrect connected nan issue,” responding to Trump’s disapproval of Florida’s six-week ban. 

Scott’s agency declined to remark for this article. 

“I would beryllium stunned beyond belief if he chose personification that gave him complications astir that issue,” said 1 of nan sources adjacent to Trump, mentioning some Scott and Noem arsenic among those who mightiness do conscionable that.

Donors are besides chiming successful pinch concerns. Given nan campaign’s money challenges amid costly ineligible battles, getting it correct connected abortion could person financial implications, too. A female who is simply a awesome Trump and GOP philanthropist told NBC News she is wary of a summons pinch Scott fixed his “fervent” posture connected abortion; she said she precocious reached retired to a Trump advisor to definitive concern. 

She said she likes Scott and understands wherever he’s coming from but worries he would beryllium excessively difficult a waste to voters. 

“We don’t person that overmuch bandwidth to explicate wherever he’s coming from. We person to explicate to women that we spot them. I deliberation his statements connected nan run trail, wherever he would motion a 20-week aliases a 16-week aliases a six-week abortion prohibition successful a nanosecond, is conscionable — there’s nary measurement nan Republican Party tin withstand that and nan Democrats’ fundraising connected that,” nan philanthropist said. 

As Republicans person taken hits astatine nan ballot box erstwhile abortion has been a cardinal issue, Democrats are again betting that nan rumor of reproductive authorities tin thief thrust voters to nan polls. 

A Democratic strategist expressed dream that Trump chooses Scott aliases Noem, because Democrats would “have a section day” pinch them.

“When you person nan second-highest campaigner for agency connected their summons supporting these types of policies ... that is going to bleed into races each nan measurement down ballot. You would spot that successful tv ads successful each authorities successful each race. ... This conscionable only makes our occupation easier,” nan strategist said.

Trump is keenly alert of that dynamic. Three sources said it has been eating astatine him since nan 2022 midterms, erstwhile he was highly disappointed successful nan abortion rhetoric from aggregate candidates he himself endorsed. As a result, he has go progressively focused connected really to displacement and sharpen nan Republican strategy. 

“Abortion is Donald Trump’s singular attraction successful nan book of issues. He sees it arsenic existential for nan party. He understands really it plays successful circumstantial states. He understands really group person played it and won aliases lost,” 1 of nan sources said.

Stefanik, different imaginable running-mate pick, has been vocally “pro-life” and has supported a 15-week national abortion ban, pinch exceptions successful cases of rape aliases incest aliases to prevention nan life of nan woman. Stefanik has besides supported authorities that would enforce situation sentences of up to 5 years connected doctors who execute abortions aft 20 weeks. 

But her stance much intimately aligns pinch what Trump has said some publically and privately. The New York Times precocious reported that Trump likes nan thought of a 16-week nationalist prohibition arsenic he tries to entreaty to nan mostly of Americans who support abortion rights, without alienating his blimpish base. The Trump run has denied nan Times’ reporting.

Trump has mostly been observant astir wading successful connected abortion, telling NBC News successful September he thought he could bring “both sides” together. He has criticized members of his statement who endorse abortion bans pinch nary exceptions. But he is besides inextricably tied to nan issue, having named 3 of nan blimpish Supreme Court justices who yet overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Also connected nan database is Donalds, whose website declares an anti-abortion position, saying, “Every life is valuable, from conception to earthy death, and I will conflict to protect nan life of each unborn kid without exception.” 

Donalds precocious said he backs successful vitro fertilization, but successful 2021, he besides co-sponsored nan Life astatine Conception Act, which says group astatine “all stages of life, including nan infinitesimal of fertilization, cloning, aliases different infinitesimal astatine which an individual comes into being,” person law rights. He didn’t co-sponsor nan measurement erstwhile it was re-introduced successful nan caller Congress. 

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a famed neurosurgeon who ran for president successful 2016, has besides been rumored arsenic a imaginable pick. And while he has a murky grounds connected nan issue, those worried astir nan likes of Scott and Noem aren’t arsenic concerned astir Carson, because they consciousness his views are older news and aren’t arsenic ripe for Democrats to exploit. 

At a Fox News municipality hallway past month, Trump said nan astir important point he was looking for successful a moving mate was “somebody that you deliberation will beryllium a bully president” successful lawsuit “something should happen.”

National property caput Karoline Levitt said successful a statement, “President Trump appointed beardown Constitutionalist national judges and Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and sent nan determination backmost to nan states, which others person tried to do for complete 50 years.”

Trump’s determination besides comes astatine a clip erstwhile immoderate reddish states are tacking further correct connected reproductive rights. The Alabama Supreme Court ruling that embryos are children, which paused successful vitro fertilization treatment successful nan state, was “politically a boon to Democrats,” nan Democratic strategist said. 

“It shows,” nan strategist said, that “what Democrats person been saying would travel to walk since nan autumn of Roe is not hyperbole.”

Dasha Burns

Dasha Burns is simply a analogous for NBC News.