Although it has received almost no mention in the liberal media, abortion was a winning issue for Republicans in the 2002 elections.
Pro-life candidates pulled through in nearly every tight race and produced some of the biggest surprises. Election day polling from Minnesota, Missouri and Georgia suggests that abortion may have been a decisive issue in those states Senate races.
Meanwhile, national pro-abortion groups backed losers in nearly every competitive congressional race.
Pro-life GOP Sen.-elect Norm Coleman won in Minnesota even after well-liked liberal incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone (D.) was killed in a plane crash. Facing former Vice President Walter Mondale in an election-eve debate, Coleman went on the offensive when the liberal icon called him "an arbitrary pro-lifer."
"I would take exception-Ill use a kind word-to the description of arbitrary," Coleman shot back. "My wife and I have had two children who were born-first son and the last daughter-they died at very young ages. I have a deep and profound respect for the value of life. Its not arbitrary."
According to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted in Minnesota November 4-5, abortion was the key issue for 14% of Minnesota voters. Of those, 81%-equivalent to 11% of the total electorate-voted for Coleman. Two percent of the electorate picked Mondale because of abortion. That meant Coleman got a nine-point bump for being pro-life in a race decided by three points. The poll, like identical ones taken in Missouri and Georgia, had a 3% margin of error.
In Missouri, the poll found abortion was the second most important issue to voters. A strong pro-life vote pushed former Rep. Jim Talent (R.) into the Senate over incumbent Sen. Jean Carnahan (D.), and helped Republicans gain 14 seats and control of the state house. Of the 17% of Missouri voters who told pollsters abortion was their defining issue, 80% voted for Talent. Pro-lifers thus gave Talent an 11-point bump over Carnahan.
New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D.) tried to make abortion a defining issue in her campaign. The Boston Globe led an October 15 story: "The fate of abortion rights in America could depend on who wins New Hampshires open U.S. Senate seat." Shaheen emphasized her absolutist pro-abortion position in debates and ads pointing out that Sununu opposed abortion. Sununu, of course, won.
In Colorado, Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, who advocates a Human Life Amendment, was once considered vulnerable. But he turned former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland (D.) into a two-time loser, even though Strickland used abortion as a centerpiece issue in his campaign.
Abortion was also a key in the Georgia Senate race in which pro-life Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated pro-abortion incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland (see story on page 5).
Abortion figured importantly in several House contests as well. In Indianas traditionally Democratic 2nd District, conservative businessman Chris Chocola (R.) and liberal former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D.) were asked to put their views on abortion in writing by the South Bend Tribune.
Thompson pulled a Clinton: "I am a pro-choice opponent of abortion," she wrote.
Chocola wrote: "I am pro-life. I believe in the sanctity of human life and that life begins at conception. . . . Fourteen years ago, my wife, Sarah, gave birth to our daughter, Caroline, 10 weeks prematurely. Caroline was 2 pounds when she was born. I would look at my little girl and wonder how could something so small be fighting so hard to live? . . Her birth reaffirmed our belief that life begins at conception."
Newly elected Republican Rep. Rick Renzi (Ariz.) ran in a new rural district where Democrats have a nearly 8-point advantage in registration, and where Hispanics and American Indians comprise 40% of the population. But Renzi, a father of 12 who is expected to be one of the most strongly pro-life members of the new House, won convincingly over pro-abortion Democrat George Cordova.
Newly elected Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez (Colo.) withstood a demagogic hammering by his strongly pro-abortion opponent, Mike Feeley, because he maintained that there should be no abortion exceptions for cases of rape or incest. As of press time, Beauprez was still hanging on to a slim 400-vote lead in his very evenly divided district.