Guns Fail to Sway Voters
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 07:00:11 AM EST
It turns out that District of Columbia v. Heller, the so-called DC gun rights case in which the Supreme Court established that the second amendment is an individual rather than group right, might have been a political disaster for the GOP even as it achieved one of the party's long-standing policy ends. Here's First Read's Carrie Dann writing about Barack Obama's "cling to their guns" comment and its effect -- or rather striking lack thereof -- on Tuesday.
The comment also put an exclamation point on Obama's record on guns, which has drifted to the center since his days as an Illinois state senator. As the general election heated up, the National Rifle Association announced an eye-popping $15 million ad campaign intended to serve as a loudspeaker for suspicions about Obama's alleged hidden intention to limit gun ownership.
But as the vote margins of the presidential race rolled in, the one-time wedge issue of the Second Amendment did not seem to pack the national-stage punch for which the influential gun lobby had aimed. Nationally, gun owners broke for McCain by almost the identical margin that they broke for Bush in 2004. But in the states where the NRA Political Victory Fund's toughest efforts against Obama were concentrated -- gun-rich regions in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico -- Obama's victory was decisive. The Democratic nominee won those states by eight, 11, and 15 points, respectively. Of the 11 states where the NRA's anti-Obama ads were reportedly aired, McCain won only one: Texas.
Down the ballot, the NRA backed all six of the Republican Senate candidates who lost to Democratic challengers. And in several high-profile House contests, NRA-backed candidates like Ed Tinsley, Bill Sali, Steve Chabot, and Phil English came up short.
Just four years ago, when John Kerry lost, and certainly eight years ago, when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the until-then traditionally Democratic states of Tennessee (Gore's home state), Arkansas and West Virginia, the thought was that the power of the National Rifle Association was unmatchable, that the NRA's sway over elections was unquestionable. Yet while it's fairly clear that the NRA's policy goals have been achieved to a great extent, with even Obama concurring with the SCOTUS' reasoning in Heller, the NRA's position as an effective campaign arm of the Republican Party appears to be on the wane, if not over. Yes, this was a tremendously successful year for the Democrats, with the nation clearly predisposed to throw the Republican bums out. Nevertheless, in even some of the reddest parts of the country where the power of the anti-gun control movement should have been the strongest, Democrats were still able to claim victory.
I'm not ready to write an obituary for the NRA's electoral efforts because of the sheer hubris of the act demands me not to. But the time of the left obsessing about the power of the NRA over all others may be drawing to a close.