Two weeks ago, Planned Parenthood convened six small focus groups, each in a swing state, and asked voters who had cast ballots for Donald Trump what they thought of abortion rights. The first half of the conversations (which the group made available to reporters on request) found these voters reluctantly supportive of Trump, with some nagging worries about how he’d govern. All of them wanted him to oppose any attack on Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

“It’s a terrible idea, to make that a priority in Congress,” one woman said.

A man insisted that Trump wouldn’t sign off on the plan. “As a businessman, one of the biggest things you don’t do is do things without knowledge,” he said. He was one of five panelists, a majority, who agreed that Trump would veto an attack on Planned Parenthood.

The conversations among this and other focus groups, shown to Laura Bassett at the Huffington Post and Michelle Goldberg at Slate, demonstrated a truth about Trump that had been lost at the end of the 2016 campaign. At key moments in the Republican primary campaign, when faced with a conservative litmus test, Trump failed it – and it didn’t slow him down. The result was that many voters came to see him as distinct from the Republicans, and conservatives, with whom they disagreed.

Taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood was the prime example. In August 2015, at the first Republican primary debate, he passed up a chance to condemn Planned Parenthood, saying that abortion represented a “small part” of the services the group offered. Antiabortion groups rounded on him; the first anti-Trump TV ads usually made mention of his old comments and his waffling on Planned Parenthood.

Among those taking delight from this: Planned Parenthood’s PR team. As the candidate thrived despite his defense of a group under constant congressional assault, Planned Parenthood suggested that he was showing Republicans where the country wanted to be. “Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take,” the group stated.

As Trump won primaries, he bent on Planned Parenthood, but in a confusing way. In February, he insisted that “millions of millions of women – cervical cancer, breast cancer – are helped by Planned Parenthood.” Parenthetically, he added that he “would defund it because I’m pro-life.” It was more striking that he had defended the group at all, and rivals such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, used that fact to attack him.

After Trump’s Super Tuesday triumphs, he continued that theme. Thousands of people, he said, wrote him in support of Planned Parenthood. The caveat: “We’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood.”

Trump’s double-speak lost him no allies among social conservatives; once he was clearly in command of the Republican nomination, they portrayed him as, in James Dobson’s phrase, a “baby Christian” who would appoint the right judges and sign the right bills, even if he had come late to the cause. The white working-class voters who powered Trump viewed social issues as a low priority,.

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