Guns Fail to Sway Voters

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.

Tags: 2008, guns (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Re: Guns Fail to Sway Voters

Your post hinted at something which I will try to make explicit.  The NRA has been largely victorious in achieving its policy goals.  It holds the field.  The Democratic caucus has more members favorably disposed towards the 2nd amendment now than at any time in recent memory.  The assault weapons ban is history.  Democrats did not campaign on gun control.  Gun owners don't feel threatened that increased restrictions on gun ownership are immement.  The Heller decision further allayed the concerns of gun owners, by establishing that the 2nd amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm.  

Given that context, it's not surprising that gun owners felt free to base their vote on issues important to them other than guns.  The NRA didn't sway many votes this time because voters did not perceive the gun issue to be in play.

The real test would be if the newly strengthened Democratic majorities in Congress decide to pass legislation restricting the rights of gun owners.  In that case, I think we would swiftly be reminded that the issue (and the NRA) has lost none of its potency.  

by Mose 2008-11-07 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Guns Fail to Sway Voters

As a pro-gun-rights (but otherwise, fairly far left) Democrat, I can't help but feel this has all for the best, and I hope that the new President + Congress DO NOT try to tackle what ought to be an issue that's very low on the country's list of priorities.

by nkedel 2008-11-07 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Guns Fail to Sway Voters

Look at the results of Montana: 50% McCain, 47% Obama.

That tells you all you need to know about the dwindling power of the NRA.  As long as Congress doesn't try to over-reach on gun control (and I see zero indication they will) the NRA's power should continue to wane.  Obama took it off the table by publicly supporting the Heller decision.  Obama and the rest of the Democrats are not interested in pursuing serious gun control at a national level, viewing it as a states issue now.  Which is what I personally feel it should be.

by Skaje 2008-11-07 09:06AM | 0 recs
Guns--A third rail- Guns Fail to Sway Voters

Just as Republicans learned in 2006, that messing with Social Security can be deadly to your Congressional career, the Dems seem to have finally learned the same thing about guns. Both issues turned out to be NON-Issues in 2008. Neither party ever mentioned those hotbed issues. It's strange that the people who would most benefit from some form of gun control would be the police forces in the USA, they are the one's who get shot frequently by repeated gun law violators. Yet, the National Police Officers Association supported McCain/Palin. If they don't worry about getting shot by these criminals, then I don't blame Democrats from not pushing any new gun control. It is scary that two things came from the Bush legacy--1.a push for very lax or no control over illegal guns  2. an open border which freely allows the import of drugs to the USA and  where the drug lords in Mexico are bringing their huge violent wars to the USA's Southern Border with Mexico. Over 3,000 Mexicans have been killed this year in Mexico (mostly police and army people) in drug wars and thanks to Bush, we will probably see that war come to our country very soon. Another Bush foul-up we all have to pay for.

by hddun2008 2008-11-07 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Guns Fail to Sway Voters

i'm pro gun. got one in my pocket. the nra is like a dog. just don't poke it with a sharp stick. they will find a bogey man, just don't let it be you. if there are no new ones, well they will use the old ones or make one up. thank you. breid.

by breid1903 2008-11-08 03:13AM | 0 recs

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