All signs are pointing to a pretty good night for Republicans when election returns start rolling in next Tuesday, but the gun control lobby is already trying to put their own spin on the outcome of the midterm elections, and they’re getting an assist from POLITICO’s White House reporter.
In a new piece, Myah Ward claims that Democrats who voted in favor of gun control legislation in Congress this year aren’t in danger of paying a political price; a bold statement given that Democrats are, in fact, widely expected to lose control of the House and may very well end up losing the Senate along with it. Ward gets around that inconvenient fact with one very big caveat.
“It’s not 1994 anymore,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun safety organization Giffords, founded by former Ariz. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2011. “It’s safe to say that, at this point, we have obliterated the idea that guns is risky political territory for Democrats. Quite the contrary.”
Ambler and other advocates believe there is not a single candidate in danger strictly because of their votes on gun legislation. They noted that there had been no primary losses for Republicans over the issue either.
Well no sh*t, Peter. In an election year that’s dominated by rising inflation, economic concerns, and other kitchen table issues, I don’t think there’s a single Democrat or Republican whose race will be decided strictly because of their views on gun control. That, however, is a far cry from Amber’s suggestion that gun control is no longer risky territory for politicians. Let’s take a look at some examples, starting with the race for U.S. Senate in Arizona. As Ambler is well aware, incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly is a big fan of gun control, having founded the group that employs Ambler as its executive director. And yet, is Mark Kelly talking about gun control on the campaign trail? No he is not, even though he’s running against a Republican who builds his own unserialized firearms in his garage.
The race between Kelly and Blake Masters is incredibly tight, with the RealClearPolitics polling average showing Kelly with a slim lead of 2.2 points. If gun control is such a winning issue as Ambler suggests, why isn’t his boss running ads touting his support for bans on modern sporting rifles and “high capacity” magazines? My guess is because he and his campaign managers are well aware that playing up his gun control bona fides would end up costing him more support than it would earn.
Ambler’s unconvincing claim that he and other activists have “obliterated the idea that guns is risky political territory” is also belied by what’s happening to those candidates who have played up their support for gun control in their campaigns. Here are a few examples:
- Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is currently trailing incumbent Greg Abbott in the race for Texas governor by 9.2 points in the RCP polling average after using the murders at Robb Elementary in Uvalde to push for more gun control laws if he’s elected.
- Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley is even further behind in her bid to unseat Gov. Mike DeWine, down 18.7 points in the RCP average after running a campaign largely based around DeWine’s “failure” to pass new gun control laws in the state after the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.
- New York Governor Kathy Hochul is currently leading Republican challenger Lee Zeldin by 6 points in the RCP average, a far cry from the 22-point point victory that Andrew Cuomo achieved in the state in 2018.
- New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who won election in 2018 by 14.3 points, is currently leading Republican Mark Ronchetti by just 4 points in the RCP polling average.
In fact, I would challenge Ambler to name a single Democratic politician who is faring better this year than their last campaign thanks to their support for gun control. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with one example, but I’ve drawn a blank.
On the other hand, Republicans like Mike DeWine, Chris Sununu, Brian Kemp, and Greg Abbott, who have all signed Constitutional Carry legislation into law within the past couple of years, are expected to cruise to victory. Of the four, Kemp is currently in the midst of the closest campaign, but even he’s leading Stacey Abrams by 8.5 points in the RCP polling average, far ahead of the 1.4% margin of victory when he and Abrams squared off in 2018.
I completely understand why activists like Ambler are trying to get ahead of next week’s election results by declaring that gun control isn’t hurting Democrats, but I would have expected POLITICO to take a more skeptical approach, especially since we haven’t even started counting votes yet. It may be the case that support for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act isn’t going to be a dealbreaker for many voters, but there’s absolutely no evidence that voting for the gun control legislation has actually helped any candidate in their re-election campaign either, and I suspect that when the votes are tallied next week it will become painfully obvious that Ambler’s pre-election spin was as vacuous as the anti-2A policies he supports.