When South Dakota approved a law sharply restricting abortion last week, many pro-life Republicans around the country sounded a loud hallelujah. But at least one very senior Republican did not seem at all eager to join in the chorus. As Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, flew to Memphis to attend the first gathering of potential GOP presidential candidates for 2008, a NEWSWEEK reporter asked him if he had anything to say about the South Dakota law. “No,” he said. Did he plan to make a statement on that topic at the Republican gathering in Memphis? “No” was the answer. Would he ever be willing to comment on the topic, other than to say that it’s up to the states to make their own choices on abortion? Again, the answer was “no.” The look on his face was more expressive. It appeared to ask, “Are you kidding?” Why such reticence to embrace glad tidings? After all, the abortion issue has been good to the Republican Party. It has energized Roman Catholic and evangelical grass-roots activists and allowed the GOP to paint pro-choice Democrats as cultural extremists, out of step with Main Street and the heartland. But […]

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