VIDEO: Reid Announces Senate Will Stay in Session Until Debt Agreement Reached

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
July 18, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

Neither busi­ness­man Mike McWhert­er (D) “nor” Knoxville May­or Bill Haslam (R) “have suc­ceeded in se­cur­ing” an en­dorse­ment from the NRA.

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

The org “gave Haslam a grade of B- and McWhert­er a C-.” Haslam “didn’t join the NRA un­til after he entered” the race. McWhert­er “lost points with some ad­voc­ates for his call to change a state law al­low­ing people with hand­gun per­mits to be armed in late-night bars” (AP, 10/7).

NRA spokes­per­son Rachel Par­sons “said Haslam was run­ning on ‘a pro-Second Amend­ment plat­form,’ but as may­or of Knoxville didn’t take a strong stand sup­port­ing the res­taur­ant carry le­gis­la­tion.” The NRA “de­cided not to en­dorse McWhert­er based on a ques­tion­naire he filled out.”

Vander­bilt Univ. prof. John Geer: “If it was close, then they prob­ably would have to bite the bul­let and en­dorse Haslam” (McWhirter, Wall Street Journ­al, 10/6).

Al­right, Let’s Get This Show On The Road!

McWhert­er “said” his TV ad cam­paign launches statewide 10/7, “co­in­cid­ing with to­night’s de­bate in Knoxville that will be tele­vised on WMC-TV Chan­nel 5 in Mem­ph­is.”

McWhert­er “would not say what the ads fo­cus on but said his TV ads will run through” the 11/2 elec­tion. He “con­ceded the air­waves to Haslam’s much-bet­ter-fun­ded cam­paign since a week or so” after the 8/5 primary elec­tions “but he said that’s about to end.”

McWhert­er: “I think right now I’m a little be­hind my op­pon­ent in this race but I’ve mar­shaled my re­sources all the way through Au­gust and Septem­ber and I’m get­ting ready to come out with my me­dia cam­paign start­ing to­mor­row in time for early vot­ing. I think you’re go­ing to see this race tight­en up. Be­cause after my op­pon­ent has spent $14 mil­lion, I think there’s not much more he can say about him­self. I’m get­ting ready to come for­ward; I feel really good about where I am. I’ve spent a lot of time in our rur­al areas of the state and now I’ll be fo­cus­ing a lot of time in the urb­an areas the rest of this month.”

Haslam: “We feel very good about where we are right now. But we’re not go­ing to let up” (Lock­er, Mem­ph­is Com­mer­cial Ap­peal, 10/7).

Sub­mar­ine Sand­wiched

Nashville Scene’s Woods writes that McWhert­er “re­vealed his cam­paign’s seem­ing som­no­lence ac­tu­ally is a clev­er, rarely-be­fore-tried” strategy. McWhert­er: “Our slo­gan in this cam­paign has al­ways been to run si­lent and to run deep. It’s from an old World War II movie. It’s like sub­mar­ines. You run si­lent. You run deep. You de­vel­op your pro­gram and then you sur­face and then it’s game on.”

There was “no reas­on to run ads earli­er, he says, be­cause no one would’ve paid at­ten­tion to them.” McWhert­er: “John Q. Pub­lic and Jane Q. Pub­lic do not fo­cus on this race un­til Oc­to­ber, and then it’s a mad scramble to get your mes­sage out. … They’ve got to make a choice. Stra­tegic­ally, we’ve had our plan and we’ve worked it right on through, and I think we’re right on tar­get for where we need to be in this race.”

While McWhert­er “was wait­ing on voters to pay at­ten­tion, more than half of them were busy mak­ing up their minds.” To win now, McWhert­er “would have to per­suade not only un­de­cided voters but a sig­ni­fic­ant per­cent­age of those who’ve already chosen their guy.”

McWhert­er: “My fo­cus is on help­ing the work­ing fam­il­ies of this state. And that is not Bill Haslam’s agenda. All he talks about is cut­ting the state budget. That’s all he talks about. … He says, ‘I’m go­ing to cut this budget and I’m go­ing to bal­ance it.’ Well, what kind of mes­sage is that for the work­ing fam­il­ies of Ten­ness­ee? I think it’s none” (10/7).

On gun con­trol, Demo­crats re­main para­lyzed by the fear of los­ing voters whom they have already lost.

After the Au­rora, Colo., mas­sacre last week, Pres­id­ent Obama waited un­til this Wed­nes­day to raise the is­sue at all — and even then stopped short of re­af­firm­ing his pre­vi­ous sup­port for restor­ing the as­sault-weapons ban passed un­der Bill Clin­ton. And this week, when sev­er­al Demo­crat­ic le­gis­lat­ors from coastal states urged “com­mon­sense gun-safety re­forms,” the party’s con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship was con­spicu­ously si­lent.

All of that re­flects the hardened con­ven­tion­al wis­dom among Demo­crats that gun con­trol is a los­ing is­sue, a credo that dates back to Al Gore’s de­feat in 2000. Un­ques­tion­ably, gun con­trol is a dif­fi­cult polit­ic­al is­sue that splits the coun­try al­most in half. And polls leave no doubt that pub­lic sup­port for gun con­trol has waned since Clin­ton’s time.

But it’s a myth that there is no longer any audi­ence for gun con­trol. It is, in fact, al­most ex­actly the same audi­ence that Pres­id­ent Obama is pur­su­ing with vir­tu­ally everything else he does. Gun con­trol is deeply un­pop­u­lar with the por­tions of the white elect­or­ate most hos­tile to Obama any­way: blue-col­lar whites and col­lege-edu­cated white men. But among the voters who might ac­tu­ally vote for Obama (par­tic­u­larly minor­it­ies and col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men), re­stric­tions on gun own­er­ship still at­tract sol­id ma­jor­ity sup­port.

Dur­ing the 1990s, when Clin­ton won two pitched battles with the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation (passing the as­sault-weapons ban and the Brady bill re­quir­ing back­ground checks for hand­gun pur­chases), about three-fifths of Amer­ic­ans in Pew Re­search Cen­ter polls con­sist­ently said that it was more im­port­ant to con­trol gun own­er­ship than to pro­tect gun rights. That sen­ti­ment was dur­able enough that George W. Bush in 2000 did not pro­pose re­peal­ing Clin­ton’s as­sault-weapons ban; as pres­id­ent, he even nom­in­ally en­dorsed ex­tend­ing it (al­though Bush didn’t ob­ject when con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans let it lapse).

Sup­port for gun con­trol in Pew’s polls skid­ded only after Obama took of­fice; in an April 2012 sur­vey, 49 per­cent of adults said that it was most im­port­ant to pro­tect gun rights, while 45 per­cent placed great­er pri­or­ity on con­trolling gun own­er­ship. (Some oth­er re­cent na­tion­al sur­veys find a slight tilt to­ward tough­en­ing gun laws.) One reas­on pub­lic sup­port for gun con­trol has prob­ably de­clined is be­cause no na­tion­al lead­er since Clin­ton and Gore has made the case for it. But the evid­ence sug­gests that the broad­er back­lash against gov­ern­ment act­iv­ism un­der Obama has also fueled the res­ist­ance. Pew data show that the sharpest move­ment away from gun con­trol since 2000 has come among the same groups most dis­en­chanted with Obama’s over­all agenda: white men with col­lege de­grees, and white men and wo­men without them. Each of those groups now mostly pri­or­it­izes gun rights.

Sup­port for gun con­trol has also slipped some­what since 2000 among minor­it­ies and col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men, but in Pew’s April sur­vey, three-fifths in both groups still pri­or­it­ized lim­its on own­er­ship. Not co­in­cid­ent­ally, those are pre­cisely the groups most open to act­iv­ist gov­ern­ment and Obama him­self.

At­ti­tudes to­ward guns now closely track views on oth­er is­sues di­vid­ing the two parties. In Pew’s April sur­vey, gun-con­trol op­pon­ents were much more likely than sup­port­ers to re­ject the idea that gov­ern­ment should spend more to help the needy, and to say that im­mig­rants threaten tra­di­tion­al Amer­ic­an cus­toms and val­ues. Four-fifths of self-de­scribed tea party sup­port­ers stressed gun rights over gun con­trol, while a 54 per­cent ma­jor­ity of every­one else made the op­pos­ite choice.

What this means is that the vast ma­jor­ity of voters who dis­like gun con­trol have so many oth­er reas­ons to op­pose Obama that they are un­likely to switch just be­cause he hol­sters this one is­sue. Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats face the same dy­nam­ic. One reas­on Demo­crats aban­doned gun con­trol is be­cause they con­cluded that it bled them rur­al- and blue-col­lar seats dur­ing the 1994 GOP land­slide. But after slowly re­cap­tur­ing some of those seats, Demo­crats saw al­most all of them wash away again in a 2010 GOP tor­rent swelled not by guns but the broad­er re­coil from Obama’s act­iv­ism.

If there is a road back to a Demo­crat­ic con­gres­sion­al ma­jor­ity, it al­most cer­tainly will not run through such down­scale dis­tricts; rather, it will go through the leafy sub­urb­an seats where gun con­trol re­tains more back­ing. Like­wise, if Obama sur­vives in Novem­ber, it will largely be be­cause he main­tained sup­port among minor­it­ies and up­scale wo­men — not be­cause he re­cap­tured the blue-col­lar whites stam­ped­ing away from him.

Gun con­trol is a high-risk is­sue be­cause half of the elect­or­ate pas­sion­ately op­poses it. Yet it is the half that Demo­crats have little chance of reach­ing. Since Clin­ton’s era, al­most all Re­pub­lic­ans, even those from up­scale places still open to re­stric­tions, have bowed to the ma­jor­ity po­s­i­tion on guns among their core sup­port­ers. However, on gun con­trol, al­most uniquely for a so­cial is­sue, the pres­id­ent and most con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats have el­ev­ated the pri­or­it­ies of voters out­side of their co­ali­tion over the pref­er­ences of those with­in it. In polit­ics, as in com­bat, it isn’t much of a fight when one side uni­lat­er­ally dis­arms. 

What We're Following See More »
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
3 days ago
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
3 days ago
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
3 days ago

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
5 days ago

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
5 days ago

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.