Abortion took center stage in the final Ohio Senate debate, mirroring a trend in races nationwide sparked by controversial comments made by the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana. Richard Mourdock's position is that the only exception for abortion should be when the life of the mother hangs in the balance. When asked during a debate about exceptions for rape, he said, "Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen." Republican candidates nationwide disavowed his comments. Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel has similar views, only believing in exceptions in cases when the mother's life is in danger.
During their debate on Thursday night, Mandel and incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) traded barbs over their positions, with Mandel asserting that Brown believes in "abortion in the ninth month of pregnancy," a charge Brown denied. Brown, in turn, argued that Mandel has the "most extreme position" on abortion, as he opposes it in cases of rape or incest.
The candidates also sparred over Medicare and Social Security, as well as government spending, with Mandel criticizing Brown for supporting the financial and auto bailouts. Brown attacked Mandel for refusing to take a clear position on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget.
The race remains tight going into the final weeks, with Mandel keeping Brown's lead to single digits in every recent poll. It's been one of the most expensive races in the nation, and is likely to retain that title as outside groups continue to pour in millions in hopes of swaying the outcome.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Rick Berg gave their final side-by-side pitch to North Dakotans on Thursday night during a debate that focused largely on partisan differences between the two. Heitkamp said Berg would just aid partisan gridlock if elected to the Senate. And Berg charged that Heitkamp was in favor of reckless spending pushed by President Obama and the anti-energy policies of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — the latter being an attack launched earlier Thursday by the North Dakota GOP.
Energy was not the only North Dakota-specific issue that arose during the debate. The farm bill, an important boon to the North Dakota economy, currently stalled in the House, played a prominent role, with Heitkamp accusing Berg of failing to do his job to push the bill forward. Berg responded by pointing out that much of the bill has to do with other programs, like food aid, and that both chambers of Congress were in disagreement about them.
The race is one of the closest in the nation, and though Mitt Romney is due for a landslide in the state, North Dakotans are known for splitting their tickets, so Democrats still hope they can pull out a win.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R) and Democrat Richard Carmona met near the U.S.-Mexico border for their final debate, and the location, in some ways, guided the discussion: They sparred over border security, both arguing that a revamp of the immigration system was necessary.
Carmona said that visas and day-worker programs were necessary to any immigration reform, while Flake expressed openness to a guest-worker program but insisted the current program isn't "robust enough to take care of the needs that we have." Both agreed that border security would need to be increased and strengthened.
The two also clashed, as they have in previous debates, over the role of government and President Obama's healthcare law, with Flake arguing that the law was an overreach while Carmona advocated keeping the good while eliminating the bad.
The Arizona Senate race is a near-dead-heat, and though Flake was initially the favored candidate to win, Carmona has kept his lead to single digits in most polls and surpassed that in some. The race has featured sharp personal attacks from both sides, and is likely to continue on that road until the end.