“You’ve got to send the right people to Washington” to deal with gun control, President Barack Obama insists. In fact, the people voters send to Washington next year could prove to be Obama’s nightmare.
Obama’s effort to pressure senators to back gun control could very well cost several Democrats their Senate seats. Promoting gun control in conservative states could mobilize gun rights supporters. And blasting Democrats who back gun rights could sour liberals on those senators, keeping left-leaning voters home and helping elect Republicans.
Obama and Democrats face a huge dilemma. Do they rail against gun control, hoping to push opponents out of office? Or do they take a cold look at political reality and realize they may be jeopardizing Democratic gun rights advocates whose Senate votes they badly need on other issues?
Republicans need a net gain of six to control the Senate, and the eight most vulnerable seats are all held by Democrats. Three Democrats facing tough re-elections next year – Alaska’s Mark Begich, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and Montana’s Max Baucus – voted against tougher background checks last week and are under fire from the left.
Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana backed the gun control plan, and they could find that vote makes their already uncertain re-election prospects even shakier. Three others who voted yes – Iowa’s Tom Harkin, South Dakota’s Tim Johnson and West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller – are retiring, and Republicans have decent chances to win those seats.
At Organizing for Action, which promotes views closely identified with Obama, executive director Jon Carson urged backers to keep up the pressure. Senators “who decided that not crossing the gun lobby was more important than making our kids and communities safer – OFA supporters will call them out and hold them accountable to their constituents,” he vowed.
Asked whether such actions could harm Democrats, spokesman Ben Finkenbinder pointed out, “OFA is a nonpartisan issue advocacy group that will not engage in electoral politics.”
The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee last week went further, beginning an estimated $100,000 ad campaign railing against gun votes by Democratic senators from Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota. Adam Green, the group’s co-founder, insists that his group only wants senators to “represent their constituents, and then they’ll be successful on Election Day.”