In Wisconsin, Michels’ turnaround on abortion isn’t the first reversal

Madison, Wisconsin (AP) — While talking to a roomful of partisan activists in early September, Republican Tim Michels answered a question about his stance on abortion. question. Michels has vowed he will never change and said he is “winning” the race against the Democratic governor. Tim Evers is precisely because people think he’s “a man of faith, a man who doesn’t talk nonsense.”

Two weeks later, Michels dropped his unconditional support for Wisconsin’s 1849 law outlawing abortion unless it was to save a mother’s life, and said if elected, he would sign legislation that would grant immunity from rape and incest.

This isn’t the first time Michels has changed course on a major issue. Since running in April, Michels has backed Donald Trump in the 2024 race after refusing to support anyone; said he wanted to keep the state’s bipartisan election commission; and said earlier he would not Large donations are welcome after accepting donations over $500.

Michels and Evers are in a close race that has broad implications for national politics in 2024 and beyond. Evers emphasized his status as the only obstacle to full Republican control, including his veto of GOP legislation this year that would make it harder for some voters to cast ballots in key battleground states. A Michels victory would free the GOP to pass these changes and more.

It’s the most expensive gubernatorial race in the nation in terms of ad spending, with both sides spending about $55 million on TV so far, according to AdImpact Politics, which tracks spending on major campaigns.

Michels declined an interview request. But when asked about the change in his position on Tuesday’s campaign, Michels said: “I have been very clear and consistent that I am pro-abortion, and I have no apologies for that.”

Michels said he would sign a bill that would make abortion exceptions in rape and incest cases because if the legislature passed it, it would mean “the people have spoken out.”

It is unclear whether Michels will pay any price to voters for his changing positions on abortion or other issues. Republican strategist Brandon Schultz said he was skeptical. Most voters have already decided who they support, he said.

“Independents who started this race after the primaries chose their positions,” Schultz said. “Republicans have made up their minds on Michelle. I don’t see anything that would prompt a Republican to vote for Tony Evers.”

That didn’t stop Evers from trying to beat Michels on abortion.

“It’s not surprising that he would dishonestly try to hide his aggressive record on abortion, education and more at the last minute,” Evers said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Michels is campaigning for the first time since a failed bid for the U.S. Senate 18 years ago. These candidates “sometimes make mistakes,” said Barry Burden, a UW political science professor and director of the Center for Election Studies.

“What they say promises a position or path that they ultimately don’t want to take, thereby creating an inconsistency with their position when they try to move back to a previous point of view,” he said.

Michels’ abortion turnaround came after a major battle with his arch-rival, the former lieutenant. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, also opposed exceptions for rape and incest. After winning, Michels was clearly under pressure to soften his stance, Burden said.

A Marquette University Law School poll conducted shortly before Michels was overthrown found that 83 percent of respondents — including 70 percent of Republicans — supported exceptions for rape and incest.

“Abortion is a bit of a concern for Republicans, and it may be the only thing that will ultimately save some Democrats who are struggling,” Burden said.

Fighting back, Michels accused Evers of reneging on promises to voters on a variety of issues, including changing the approach to combating COVID-19 in 2020. He also noted that Evers proposed tax increases after saying he did not intend to raise them, and then later took credit for the tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled legislature he signed into law.

As part of his strategy to compete on crime and safety, Michels also attacked Evers for his government’s parole for murder and rape, and said Evers had violated his 2018 law A pledge not to release violent criminals.

Evers did not determine who could get parole, which has been the case with Republican and Democratic governors alike for decades.


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