Huckabee Backing Haridopolos Heats Up Florida Senate Race

State   |   Andrew Bair   |   May 13, 2011   |   11:42AM   |   Washington, DC

The highly competitive GOP primary in the Florida Senate race is heating up with a high-profile endorsement from former Governor Mike Huckabee’s HuckPAC for Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

In a statement released to POLITICO, Huckabee stated, “We need a new generation of proven fiscal and social conservative leaders in the U.S. Senate and that is why I am proud to endorse and support my good friend, Mike Haridopolos for the US Senate in Florida. Mike will fight for our conservative values in Washington, just as he has done in leading the tremendous work of the Florida Senate.”

Haridopolos brings to the Senate race a solid pro-life record. In his role as the Florida Senate President, Haridopolos led the fight to override pro-abortion former Governor Charlie Crist’s veto of key pro-life measures.

In the 2011 legislative session, the Florida Senate under Haridopolos’ leadership approved pro-life bills to allow women to view an ultrasound before an abortion and to strengthen parental notification statutes.

The endorsement of Mike Huckabee, who is widely respected by pro-life advocates for his unwavering support for the right to life, will surely be a huge boost for the Haridopolos campaign, which faces one of the most competitive GOP primaries in the nation. Also running for the Florida Senate seat are pro-life former Senator George LeMieux, pro-life former State Representative Adam Hasner and pro-life Col. Mike McCalister.

Former Senator George LeMieux earned a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee for his time in the US Senate. Governor Charlie Crist appointed LeMieux to the Senate after the retirement of Sen. Mel Martinez in 2009.

What could pose a problem for LeMieux with GOP voters is a perception of being too close to Gov. Crist. In 2010, when it became apparent to Crist that now-Senator Marco Rubio would in fact take the GOP nomination for Senate, Crist left the Republican Party and mounted a failed third party campaign. Crist derided conservatives throughout the campaign and alienated what little Republican support he had left. Since the launch of his campaign, primary opponent Adam Hasner has labeled LeMieux “a Charlie Crist Republican.”

While LeMieux’s pro-life record stands in stark contrast to Gov. Crist’s, the political connection to Crist could be a difficult hurdle to overcome.

The eventual GOP nominee will face pro-abortion Senator Bill Nelson (D) in the general election. In 35 scored votes by the National Right to Life Committee, Nelson voted 34 times against the pro-life position. Some of Nelson’s most egregious votes include votes for the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law, for taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research, for taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Recent polls have shown Nelson vulnerable to a Republican challenger in 2012. Quinnipiac University Polling in April put a generic Republican challenger within a four points of defeating Nelson, which essentially constitutes a dead heat given the poll’s margin of error.  In 2010, Florida voters went decisively for pro-life candidates, electing pro-life Senator Marco Rubio and pro-life Governor Rick Scott. If that trend continues into 2012, it will be good news for the right to life in Florida.