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Five Races in Which the Gun Debate Matters

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The murder of more than two dozen people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has catapulted the gun control issue back into the spotlight, leaving some members especially vulnerable in the upcoming election cycle.

There are also complaints that Booker’s rhetoric on the issue does not match the anti-gun sentiment of New Jersey Democrats.

Speculation swirls around whether the 89-year-old incumbent will retire. If major progress is made on the issue in the first part of this Congress, it could help ease his decision — knowing the legacy he leaves behind. But as long as Lautenberg’s name is on the ballot, gun control will matter.

Conservative House Democrats

Republicans say that even if Democrats such as Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina maintain pro-Second Amendment voting records, the nationalization of the issue puts them in an uncomfortable position in conservative districts.

Some Democrats argue the gun issue allows an opportunity for members in more conservative districts to differentiate themselves from the national brand. But at least one Democratic strategist has concerns.

Candidates such as Barrow might not have as much success in 2014 brandishing firearms in television commercials. That strategist feared such tactics could come off as “tone deaf” and alienate white female suburban voters. And, sure enough, one group has already sought to turn Barrow’s 2012 TV ad against him in light of the new gun debate.

Also, there is concern that if guns remain a dominating national issue in 2014, as the health care overhaul did in 2010, it might not even matter what the Democrat’s position is on the Second Amendment if the party is for restrictions.

The argument can be made that all of the senators in tough 2014 races — Mary L. Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Tim Johnson and Kay Hagan among them — are in states that are typically pro-gun-rights. But Democrats are operating under the logic that Senate candidates have an easier time setting themselves apart from national figures such as Obama and the gun issue won’t be catastrophic.

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