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Some Debate Going on Right Now

Between Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards on NRA News, about whether or not Toomey is just doing what he has to do. I’ll refer to Geraghty’s Morning Jolt:

The deal reflects some basic political realities: Toomey was elected in 2010, and so he’ll next appear before the voters in 2016, a presidential election year with high turnout. You’ve heard Pennsylvania described as Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle, but the real battleground that determines statewide elections is the Philadelphia suburb counties… These are classic “soccer mom” suburban counties, and the Philadelphia Inquirer is a big media influence here. It is a tough corner of the state to sell an uncompromising stance on gun issues.

I figure since I actually live here, I ought to throw in my two cents, trying to take a step back, take off my activism hat, and put on my politics junkie hat. I think of all the things that Geraghty mentions here, the Philadelphia Inquirer is the largest factor, which is entirely in favor of gun control and has no interest whatsoever in treating the issue fairly, or treating gun owners fairly. The Inquirer has the power to destroy Toomey’s brand on the gun issue with a lot of voters, and they are backed up by several other popular and thoroughly slanted media outlets. A bigger factor is Bloomberg’s power to weaken Toomey with expensive ad buys in the Philly media market.

However, a lot of people who aren’t from around here essentially make the assumption that there is no gun culture in the suburbs worth worrying about, and that it’s soccer moms all the way down. This is not necessarily the case. Bucks County is home to several large and popular gun shops. There are dozens of smaller shops sprinkled around the county. There are about half a dozen private clubs with memberships into the thousands, and several public ranges. A great many blue collar Democrats here are also gun voters. Hell, even a lot of Jewish voters here are heavily armed. Bucks County issues about 30,000 carry permits currently. That comes out to about 1 in 17 adults in this county, and assuming gun owners vote at a higher rate than the public, arguably about 4% of the registered voters in the county. Do you know too many politicians that are willing to piss away 4% of their vote? Or even half that amount? Montgomery County issues 34,000 LTCs. Even Philadelphia issues about 32,000 LTCs. The whole state is more than 600,000. These are people with carry licenses we’re talking about, who are engaged enough in the issue to obtain an LTC.

Suzy Soccer Mom, who cares enough about the gun issue to vote on it, is never going to vote for Pat Toomey even if he voted to personally go around and confiscate every AR-15 in Pennsylvania. I would argue that Toomey has more votes to lose than gain here on the gun control issue, even in the Philadelphia suburbs, because gun owners were among his most enthusiastic supporters. It’s one thing for Toomey to vote on some things that make us unhappy because the vote came up. It’s another thing entirely to work with Manchin and Schumer to cut a deal to help get something passed. It also won’t win you any friends to lie to your constituents who call, and tell them you aren’t working on a deal when you really are.

Trying to look at this issue objectively, I get that the media has a great ability to influence low-information voters, but I also believe those tend to break for Democrats. Time will tell how badly Toomey hurt himself, if at all.

6 Responses to “Some Debate Going on Right Now”

  1. Patrick H says:

    I would argue that Toomey has more votes to lose than gain here on the gun control issue, even in the Philadelphia suburbs, because gun owners were among his most enthusiastic supporters.

    That’s why I find it so odd that he went out of his way to do this. Gun owners have always been more passionate and more powerful at the polls.

  2. Andy B. says:

    Just a couple quick thoughts:

    I don’t know how much influence newspapers have on anyone’s opinion anymore, so I don’t know how much the Philly suburbs being nominal Inky territory counts for anything. I think most people — especially in the affluent suburbs — go elsewhere, to have the opinions they already pretty much hold reinforced.

    I should comment that I or my circle are probably not a good sample, but I personally can’t think of anyone who reads the Inquirer. At most, people seem to love to hate their local paper, where at least some local goings-on are reported.

    I worry much more about TV still being the place where people receive the fundamentals of their opinions, that they will then seek to have reinforced. When I was at my political junkiest, more than 20 years ago, it was already known that the print media was the least effective outlet for a political campaign. It was the sort of thing where, if you had big, major party campaign bucks, you’d throw a couple thou so at least the editors wouldn’t attack you, but if you were on a shoestring, it was a waste. Anecdotally, I worked on a Libertarian campaign where the candidate gave each of us a collection of the newspaper clippings from his campaign, and it was the size of a suburban phone book. He got 1.3 percent of the vote by concentrating on the press. A couple years later I managed another Libertarian campaign in the same district, using almost nothing but cable TV ads, and the candidate got the greatest number of votes a minor party candidate ever had in the district, to that time. About 13 percent — losing for sure, but still a gauge of what people were paying attention to, even 22 years ago. (That experiment was slightly spoiled by, our candidate got the endorsement of the local paper — I guessed the editors watched TV, too.)

  3. RP says:

    Do you mind sharing your source for LTCF stats, Sebastian? I’ve been curious.

    I think this is a good time to point out the importance of creating new gun owners. I took my brother in law shooting about two months ago. First time he ever fired a gun. He’s already asked me to help him pick out his second gun (a ccw pistol) and he can’t wait to get a black rifle.
    We need a lot more converts like that.

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