Column: Is abortion issue a lifeline that saves the Senate for Democrats? This race offers a test case

Back when it seemed a huge Republican wave was building, Washington Sen. Patty Murray was among those who faced the prospect of being swept away. At 71, Murray is far

removed from her plucky 1992 campaign, when the self-described mom in tennis shoes took on "the guys in red ties and dark suits" and won an upset victory. Now it's

Republican Tiffany Smiley, 41 and a mother of three, who has the fresh face and benefit of being a Beltway outsider. Smiley's prodigious fundraising and inspiring back

story, as a triage nurse and fighter for disabled veterans like her husband, has Republicans hoping Washington will elect its first GOP senator since Bill Clinton was in the White

House. That could still happen. But the Supreme Court's June decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion has thrown Murray a vital lifeline, as it has

Democrats across the country, boosting her chances of overcoming the undertow incumbents typically face in a midterm election when their party holds the White House. "It

woke up a sleeping Democratic segment of the electorate that was either not paying much attention or buying into the 'red wave' and feeling they were going to get crushed," said

Stuart Elway, a nonpartisan pollster in Seattle. "It added some turbocharge to her campaign." The GOP still seems likely to take control of the House, as Republicans need to

pick up just five Democratic-held seats. But gains on the order of 35 or more seats, which once seemed quite plausible, now appear beyond reach.