All four GOP candidates featured at this weekend’s Florida Senate debate, hosted by the Florida Family Policy Council in Orlando, discussed their views on a range of controversial social issues, including abortion.

Former Sen. George LeMieux, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, Mike McCalister, and Craig Miller are currently vying to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in 2012. Each candidate expressed his views about abortion during the debate hosted by the influential social conservative Florida group.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, “all four voiced strong opposition to abortion and promised to vote against any federal funding of Planned Parenthood.”

John Stemberger, a founder of the Family Policy Council, told the Democrat that “the four Republicans articulated strong conservative positions in the debate and that support of social conservatives and tea party activists was crucial to electing Gov. Rick Scott and Rubio last year, along with some members of the U.S. House and local governing boards”:

“If history is any indicator, if the social conservatives and tea party can get on the same page as a candidate, they can determine the nominee,” said Stemberger. “They are the largest and most cohesive voting bloc of the Republican Party.”

The candidates’ views on reproductive rights were mostly similar, but there was some nuance.

According to the Associated Press, McCalister “was the only candidate to not clearly state when abortion should be allowed”:

LeMieux and Hasner said the procedures should be illegal except in the cases of rape and incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. Miller agreed they should be allowed when the mother was at risk.

“I am torn on the issue of rape and incest, because the unborn child did not ask to be put in that womb,” [McCalister] said. Pushed further and asked if he would vote for or against a ban on abortions in those cases, he added. “I need more prayer on the issue. I do.”

The event’s host, Stemberger, has claimed a role in the state Legislature’s push to curb abortion rights in its spring session. He has also expressed an interest in taking a larger part in recruiting social conservatives to run for public office — thus forming a political action committee, Florida Family Action. The group has been influential in the past few years recruiting conservative candidates and pushing social conservative legislation.

Stemberger announced on his Twitter account that Hasner “clearly has the best grasp of the social issues especially stem cell research.”

In a recent post on LeMieux’s campaign website, the Senate candidate accused Hasner of “disguising” his record “when it comes to important issues like the sanctity of life.”

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