Don’t discount the break Democratic Senate candidate Paulette Jordan just got.
She now has the potential to peel off the women’s vote — more precisely, the Republican women’s vote.
It’s not without precedent.
Republican women broke with their party two years ago in passing the state’s Medicaid expansion initiative.
They also repudiated the GOP’s education platform in 2012 by repealing the so-called Luna laws.
And 30 years ago, the Republican-led Legislature’s flirtation with an extreme anti-abortion rights law alienated enough GOP women to hand the governor’s office, the attorney general, the state controller, both of Idaho’s seats in the U.S. House and half of the state Senate to the Democrats.
Jordan correctly surmises President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court — and Idaho Republican Jim Risch’s intention to support Barrett — has given her an opening to court that same demographic going into the final month of her campaign against Risch.
Until now, Jordan has suffered the fate of all of Risch’s Democratic challengers.
She hasn’t got much traction on the veteran Republican, who tars and feathers his rivals with the toxic brand of national Democratic leaders while basking in the glow of a Republican president who is popular at home.
Heavily outspent, she can’t counter the GOP messaging machine. And the COVID-19 pandemic has put a dent in her ability to court voters in person.
But Coney Barrett’s nomination — and the Senate GOP’s heavy handed approach in rushing her confirmation six weeks before the election — could be a bit of a game-changer. If all goes on schedule, all of this will transpire in real time just as Idaho women are deciding how they’ll vote.
“I think it will be a concern for every woman,” Jordan told the Lewiston Tribune last week. “People understand there’s a lot at stake in this election besides just the Senate seat. Health care is on the ballot. Women’s rights are the ballot. The environment is on the ballot.”
Nobody can predict with certainty what Coney Barrett would do if confirmed on the court. But her elevation to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat would give conservatives a 6-3 majority — and abortion rights advocates believe she’d follow her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, in reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that upheld a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
Were that to happen, the policy choices would fall to the state legislatures.
There’s not much doubt where Idaho would land.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed — and Gov. Brad Little signed into law — a bill that would criminalize abortion in the event Roe is reversed. With a few exceptions, it was a party line vote.
Even with Roe on the books — and the restraint imposed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — Idaho lawmakers have been aggressive in their attempts to undermine reproductive autonomy:
l Eight years ago, the state Senate voted 23-12 to force women in the early stages of pregnancy to submit to a vaginal ultrasound before securing an abortion.
l Before the courts overturned the law, a Pocatello woman was prosecuted for terminating her pregnancy at home using RU-486.
l There have been bills to stop a rape victim from obtaining an abortion if the alleged rapist challenged her accusation as well as measures that would allow a woman’s husband or sexual partner to sue any doctor who fails to meet any of Idaho’s abortion-delaying statutes.
And amid all that have been those lawmakers who want to go further.
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, proposed prosecuting not only the doctor who performs the procedure, but the woman who undergoes it. Nor would there be any exceptions for the victims of rape or incest as well as any woman whose life would be endangered unless her pregnancy were terminated.
Before that, there was former Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who, while campaigning for lieutenant governor two years ago, told a Moscow audience: “There should be no abortion, and anyone who has an abortion should pay.”
Even before that, there was former state Sen. Dan “Don’t piss him off” Foreman, R-Moscow, who in his first month on the job was all for prosecuting Idaho women for getting abortions.
“I don’t care what people think of me,” he said at the time. “I’m here (in the Legislature) to do what I think is best for the people.”
Foreman wants another shot at it. He’s running against the Democrat who ousted him two years ago, David Nelson of Moscow.
Throw in the crowd that argues life begins at conception — rather than the medically accepted view that pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall. Should that become Idaho’s standard, hormonal contraception — including the pill, the intrauterine device as well as the morning-after pill — could be deemed abortifacients and scrubbed from Idaho.
That’s not to say any of that would happen if Roe were repealed.
But it could, especially given the sway of Idaho’s ideologically driven base within the all-important closed Idaho Republican primary.
Just that possibility gives Jordan entry into a conversation with Idaho Republican women voters, which is lot more than she had three weeks ago. — M.T.