Top Ten 2012 Senate Races for Pro-Life Advocates to Watch

Politics   |   Andrew Bair   |   Feb 1, 2011   |   12:41PM   |   Washington, DC

The pro-life movement has the opportunity to pick up pro-abortion seats in the 2012 elections and there are also Senate seats with pro-life senators, or those who tend to vote pro-life, in play that pro-life advocates should monitor.

On the whole, the chance of making further gains in the Senate from the successful 2010 elections is a real possibility. Republicans could find themselves with a majority control of the Senate and the ability to approve judges from what the pro-life community hopes will be a newly-elected pro-life president.

Virginia: Incumbent pro-abortion Senator Jim Webb (D) is vulnerable after refusing to cast one pro-life vote in a state that trends pro-life. Senator Webb currently holds a dismal 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Pro-Life former senator and governor George Allen entered the race this month, presenting a formidable challenge to Democratic control of the seat. Early polling puts the two neck-in-neck.

Nebraska: Formerly pro-life, then turned pro-abortion Senator Ben Nelson (D) upset the pro-life community by providing Senate Democrats the 60th vote they needed to advance the pro-abortion healthcare law. Nebraska Right to Life has already stated their PAC will not be endorsing Nelson in 2012. Without the backing of the pro-life grassroots in such a strongly pro-life state, Nelson will be in trouble. Pro-life Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) already holds a double-digit lead over Nelson. There is also talk of pro-life Treasurer Don Stenberg entering the race.

Missouri: In a state that is always competitive, incumbent pro-abortion Senator Claire McCaskill (D) faces a tough reelection, particularly after her vote for Obamacare, which is incredibly unpopular in the state. The newly elected junior senator from MO, Senator Roy Blunt (R) made his opposition to Obamacare a key focus of his successful 2010 campaign in which he defeated a pro-abortion opponent by 13 points. Former Senator Jim Talent (R) announced he would not run against McCaskill. The default GOP frontrunner at this point is pro-life former Treasurer Sarah Steelman, though it is expected more candidates will enter the fray in coming months.

Florida: Incumbent pro-abortion Democratic Senator Bill Nelson’s low approval ratings and the recent success of pro-life Republican candidates across the board in Florida, like Senator Marco Rubio, give pro-lifers hope that Nelson can be ousted in 2012. Pro-Life State Senate President Mike Haridolpolos (R) has begun fundraising for a potential bid. Other names being tossed around include pro-life former Senator George LeMieux and Rep. Connie Mack, who is pro-life on abortion but has voted to expand embryonic stem cell research.

Nevada: Scandal-plagued incumbent Senator John Ensign (R), who is pro-life, faces a tough reelection. Many believe the best way to keep this seat pro-life is to oust Ensign in the GOP primary. According to Public Policy Polling, Ensign would fall short when matched up against any of the four potential Democratic rivals, which include pro-abortion Rep. Shelley Berkley, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, pro-abortion Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and NV Secretary of State Ross Miller. On the Republican side, some are calling for pro-life Rep. Dean Heller to mount a primary challenge. PPP has Heller defeating all four of the potential Democratic candidates.

Montana: Pro-Abortion Senator Jon Tester rode the Democratic wave in 2006 but it appears he won’t have that luxury this time around. Opposed by conservatives and liberals alike, Tester is considered very vulnerable by Larry Sabato of UVA’s Center for Politics, who has ranked the race as a Tossup. Republican challengers include pro-life Rep. Denny Rehberg and pro-life GOP Businessman Steve Daines, who officially announced a bid two months ago. PPP polling found Rehberg beating Tester 48% to 46%.

Ohio: Pro-abortion incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown (D) may lose his seat in 2012. In 2010, Ohio unseated pro-abortion Governor Ted Strickland and ousted several members of its Congressional delegation who had voted for Obamacare. Brown may suffer the same fate if the wave continues in that direction. Potential GOP candidates include newly elected pro-life Lt Gov. Mary Taylor and pro-life Rep. Jim Jordan. However, Jordan recently told Real Clear Politics that he is “leaning against” a run for Senate. University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato has put this race in the Tossup category.

Massachusetts: Senator Scott Brown (R) who soared to victory last January in a special election with a campaign keenly focused on defeating the pro-abortion healthcare bill, may be vulnerable in this highly Democratic state. Pro-abortion Rep. Mike Capuano (D) is thought to be eyeing a bid. In addition, there is talk of pro-abortion Rep. Ed Markey (D) throwing his hat into the ring. In either scenario, Brown is the pro-life movement’s best bet in MA with his stalwart opposition to pro-abortion Obamacare and pro-abortion Supreme Court nominees like Elena Kagan.

West Virginia: Senator Joe Manchin (D) bears the distinction of being the lone Democrat in the US Senate to currently maintain a 100% pro-life rating. Although Manchin barely edged out a victory in 2010 over Republican John Raese, the race leans Democratic. Although Manchin is pro-life, he’s not appearing to support repealing the pro-abortion, pro-rationing Obamacare bill so far. Republicans are encouraging Rep. Shelly Moore Capito to enter the race, and she mostly votes pro-life but technically supports abortion and voted for a District of Columbia funding bill that funds abortions. In current PPP polling, even Capito finishes 10 points behind Manchin.

Indiana: Republican Senator Dick Lugar, who is pro-life on abortion but has cast several votes in favor of embryonic stem cell research and supported the Supreme Court nomination of pro-abortion Elena Kagan, may be vulnerable in 2012. Lugar, who is often viewed as a political moderate, is probably most vulnerable in the GOP primary with numerous state Tea Party groups pledging to mount a challenge. While Tea Party groups have yet to coalesce behind a particular candidate, pro-life State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate to challenge Lugar. No Democrats have announced bids at this point. Although Lugar is seen as vulnerable, the race still “Solid Republican” for the general election according to Larry Sabato of UVA’s Center for Politics.