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3 senators to watch as Trump tries to reshape the GOP on abortion

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President Donald Trump’s announcement that abortion should be left to the states sent many in the congressional GOP scrambling. But three senators in particular could feel the squeeze in the coming months.

Some lawmakers are trying a new strategy. Take Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose wife just argued an abortion case before the Supreme Court. He aligned with Trump and said Republicans should “make the case anew” to voters to ban abortion at the state level — though that argument hasn’t seemed to work much so far.

“It’s not going to pass,” Hawley said about a push from Republicans in Congress to codify a nationwide ban. “It’s not going to get 60 [votes]. So let’s be realistic. I mean, that’s not going to happen.”

But many Republicans aren’t willing to cede ground on a federal abortion ban, insisting that the party can’t just allow blue states to continue the practice. Count Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in that bucket; he previously introduced a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks and became a target of Trump’s wrath on Monday.

He’s the most obvious, given that social media blowup, but he’s not alone. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has also critiqued Trump’s abortion position, supported a 15-week federal ban and he’s on the list to potentially join Trump’s ticket as vice president.

Then there’s Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who’s also a contender for Trump’s VP but seen as a less likely pick. He signed on as a co-sponsor of Graham’s 15-week-ban bill last term, and now he’s running for reelection in a state where abortion is also on the ballot.

Here’s more on the three Republican senators to watch:
He “respectfully disagreed” with Trump on Monday, saying he still felt a nationwide 15-week abortion ban was appropriate. Trump quickly panned that take as a stance that could lose Republicans elections in the fall.

The split is particularly notable given the two’s former status as close allies. Now, Trump is directly contradicting Graham on both abortion and strengthening U.S. national security, two of the South Carolina senator’s biggest priorities. Trump and Graham have been at odds over how to handle an emboldened and aggressive Russia on the world stage.

Graham wouldn’t say Monday whether he’ll re-introduce legislation to ban abortions federally. That could set up an ugly, intra-party clash if Trump wins in November. And Graham, for his part, doesn’t feel Hawley’s optimism about taking the fight to limit abortion to the states.

“For the pro-life movement it’s about the child, not geography,” Graham said. “So if you’re turning the pro-life movement into a geographical movement, I think you’re stuck.”

Trump’s abortion stance could complicate his veepstakes. Scott also backed a 15-week national ban and used that as a major differentiator in his campaign against Trump for the GOP nomination. And he lobbed strong criticism at Trump for his disinterest in a federal abortion ban.

Scott’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment Tuesday, and he doesn’t usually respond in hallway interviews.

His position could make Scott’s potential selection as VP a bit awkward, given the daylight between their positions. But alternatively, maybe it helps Scott if Trump’s campaign thinks he would help them with anti-abortion groups.

The Florida Republican is already taking political hits for co-sponsoring Graham’s bill to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Democrats clearly want to tie him to anti-abortion rhetoric, especially with the right to the procedure on his state’s ballot in November. Floridians will get to vote on a state constitutional amendment that could enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution, and an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy is currently slated to take effect in the state.

Given those dynamics, Trump’s position might be helpful to give Rubio some distance. He praised the former president’s announcement to us on Tuesday: “What he said yesterday was the truth: that our most realistic chance of limiting the damage that abortion does is at the state level. That’s just a fact.”

Burgess Everett and Ursula Perano contributed.