So when reader Adam Z sent me this article today about Harry Reid promising Moms Demand Action a vote on a gun control bill in 2014 before the midterm election, I started to wonder if it’s actually not a strategy to keep control of the Senate.
Here me out as I kind of walk through a possible strategy. It could be simply crazy talk or crazy like a fox. You decide.
For those of you who don’t have the list memorized, here are the red states with Democrats facing re-election or with an open seat currently held by Democrats in 2014: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Now, most people would think that after you already failed to garner enough votes right after Newtown, you definitely don’t want to force another vote that fires up the Second Amendment vote in an election year in these key states.
But, The Nation assumes way too much about the promise with its vague promise of timing.
Reid’s prediction now of a pre-midterm election vote on gun control is crucial, because it means senators who oppose background checks will have to declare their opposition in the heat of a campaign cycle.
They seem to assume that such a vote would happen when Democrats could be challenged on the issue. Not likely. Reid could be promising a vote after primary season and before the general election. By doing that, he can keep challenges from the left at bay, and he knows that even lefty voters who support gun control aren’t going to run into the arms of Republicans over it. Those same liberal voters will likely be motivated to turn out on other issues – preserving Obamacare or whatever the topic of the day is at the time. They may have an opinion on guns, but they don’t vote guns. Reid knows this.
In the meantime, by holding a vote closer to a general election, Reid now gives the Democrats cover to run on a platform of being a strong pro-gun vote. They can say that their presence in the Senate keeps the crazy wing of the party from running wild on gun control. There’s an element of truth in it. Gun owners would just have to decide if they trusted that specific candidate enough not to stray once re-elected, and lower information gun voters may not think far ahead when voting.
A gun control vote fight post-primary and pre-general would also mean that NRA’s human resources – staff and volunteers – will be tied up with drumming up opposition to the vote instead of focusing on the early stages of the general election. It means that endorsements to signal where volunteers should help out will likely be held until the last minute after the vote. It means less time to be on the air with commercials and less time to buy other advertisements and do mailings. Don’t even get me started on the magazine publishing deadline. That will be a nightmare in itself.
So, while a 2014 pre-election vote may get the pro-gun voters energized, Reid may be calculating that it may not hurt the Senate Democratic candidates in those key states. So while the left may be cheering this news, it may not be nearly as exciting for them as they hope it is.