USA TODAY International Edition

Kansas voters give GOP a hard lesson

Red state refused to go back on abortion rights

- Rex Huppke Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @ RexHuppke and Facebook:

It turns out that when you try to take away a right a majority of people don’t want taken away, voters sometimes turn out in huge numbers and ruin your “Yay! We Took Away Your Rights!” party.

That’s the tough lesson Republican­s learned Tuesday night in Kansas, as voters in this deeply red state refused to carry on the GOP’s wayward anti- abortion crusade, resounding­ly defeating a referendum that would have stripped away abortion protection­s.

The vote was accompanie­d by a turnout far greater than expected for a primary, with Kansas’ secretary of state saying: “It’s looking a lot like the 2008 turnout for the Obama presidenti­al race. So it’s incredibly high turnout.”

This was not at all how things were supposed to go for anti- abortion Republican­s after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. Convinced their policies are in line with voters, GOP politician­s have raced to out- extreme one another on the issue of abortion. A federal ban! No exceptions for rape or incest! No crossing state lines for abortions!

Then these Kansas ballot- casters came along and effectively said, “The 1950s called, they want their patriarcha­l

ideas of women’s rights back.”

What will midterms bring?

If only Americans would let politician­s and activists implement the policies they want without insisting on opposing those policies through antiquated traditions like “voting.”

The electoral thumping in the Sunflower State now draws into question prevailing wisdom that Republican­s will trounce Democrats in November’s midterm elections, allowing them to tackle issues crucial to all Americans, like launching 37 investigat­ions into Hunter Biden and making sure nobody ever says the word “gay” out loud.

If the issue of abortion rights can bring out an outsized number of voters in Kansas for an August primary, what kind of turnout might we see in November in states where crucial races will determine control of the House and Senate?

Will the conservati­ve base, emboldened by the long- sought- after overturnin­g of Roe v. Wade, push candidates to profess support for a federal abortion ban? If so, every Republican candidate will get pushed into a corner on this issue. That was likely before the Kansas primary result, and now it’s both likely and a potentiall­y huge problem for the party.

New voters since court ruling

If only there had been some signs that Americans strongly support a woman’s right to an abortion. Some kind of … poll, if you will, showing little tolerance for harsh restrictio­ns on abortion rights.

If only anti- abortion Republican­s had known that the same people telling them they don’t want their rights taken away also have the ability to get mad and cast votes.

Ah, well. We all make mistakes. I was hesitant to say it before Tuesday night’s results in Kansas, but I’ll say it now: I don’t think Republican­s have reckoned with what they’ve uncorked in this country. USA TODAY reported that Kansas saw voter registrati­on surge after Roe was overturned in June. Notably, 70% of Kansans who registered to vote are women, according to analysis by TargetSmar­t, a nonpartisa­n political data organizati­on.

That doesn’t suggest a demographi­c happy with where things are heading.

Democrats still face strong headwinds going into November. But if Kansas ends up a bellwether or an indicator of voter anger, Republican “leaders” might find they tried to pull the country in a direction it didn’t want to go: Backwards.

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