By Peter Savodnik - 04/26/05 12:00 AM EDT
Jane Abraham, the wife of former Energy Secretary and Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), was expected to meet yesterday with leading conservative activists in Washington as she pondered a bid for the seat once held by her husband.
Abraham, 43, said in an interview Sunday that she is nearing the end of an eight-week process to determine whether she will seek the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), and “the answers are pointing to yes in that regard.”
As president of the Susan B. Anthony List — a conservative counterpart to the pro-abortion-rights group EMILY’s List — Abraham said she has established an extensive network of supporters.
She added that, if elected, she would be a different kind of senator than her husband had been. Spencer Abraham served one term in the Senate. In 2000, Stabenow unseated him in one of the major upsets of the year.
“You can be assured of this: Spence Abraham won’t be running for reelection. This is about different issues,” Jane Abraham said. “There are many different considerations, issues that families are grappling with. I’m a very different person with some different life experiences. ... The type of voice I’d be for Michigan is a common-sense voice.”
Abraham declined to say whom she was scheduled to meet with yesterday but did confirm that she would be in Washington. She and her pollster, Chris Wilson, were thought to be seeking an audience with representatives of the National Rifle Association, the American Conservative Union and other right-wing groups.
Her effort to reach out to conservative activists followed a trip last week by Ronald Weiser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Weiser, who recently returned to the United States after serving as U.S. ambassador to Slovakia for three and a half years, is just beginning the exploratory process Abraham is completing, state GOP spokesman Nate Bailey said.
After visiting the NRSC, Weiser, a major GOP fundraiser who has given to President Bush, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and many Michigan Republicans, said he simply wanted to discuss the Senate race. “I think everybody who thinks they’re qualified should run,” he said Sunday, adding that Stabenow is vulnerable to a well-funded Republican.
The senator, for her part, has been an aggressive fundraiser. In the first quarter of the year, she raked in more than $1 million, bringing her cash on hand to nearly $2.9 million. Also, she spent the previous election cycle as vice chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), forging ties, Democrats have said, with fundraisers and activists across the country.
DSCC spokesman Phil Singer and other Democrats also have noted that several potentially strong GOP Senate candidates have taken their names out of consideration — a sign, they say, of Stabenow’s strength.
A Michigan Republican source more or less agreed with that assessment, saying that “Debbie is an extraordinary campaigner” and that “no heavyweight players” have announced their candidacies.
The source added that Abraham’s marriage to a former senator and Cabinet member was hardly evidence that she would make a good senator — or campaigner — herself.
Also, the source said, Abraham has spent much of the past decade in the Washington area, where her three children — 11-year-old twin daughters and an 8-year-old son — are in school.
Finally, while Abraham enjoys widespread name recognition because of her husband, she also is burdened by his 2000 loss, which, some Republicans said, had angered grassroots activists and “money people” who felt the senator had let down the GOP.
But other Republicans, including state party officials Gerry Mason and Chuck Yob, said that Michigan’s less-than-booming economy and Democrats’ control of the governorship and both Senate seats offer the GOP ample opportunity in 2006.
And Abraham said that, as a mother and homemaker, she would be able to neutralize much of Stabenow’s appeal to women.
“Families are worried — worried with the economic situation, worried about healthcare, worried about security issues, worried about Social Security,” Abraham said. “I think that it’s very important that I’m a woman. I think it’s important as a woman to be able to reach out to families ... and provide them an alternative to what they have.”
As in the cases of Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota and West Virginia, Republicans have high hopes of picking up a Senate seat in Michigan in 2006 if they can find a viable candidate. Unlike those states, however, President Bush lost Michigan in 2000 and 2004.