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Monday, April 29, 2013

New numbers verify: anti-background check votes not without cost

Steve Benen: We talked last week about two Republican senators from blue-ish states whose support is moving in opposite directions. On the one hand, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who championed a bipartisan compromise on gun reforms, has seen his approval rating reach new heights. On the other, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has seen her support back home drop sharply.

It turns out these two aren’t the only senators seeing real shifts in their popularity among their constituents.

Public Policy Polling has a new report this morning, gauging the approval ratings of Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Begich (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Dean Heller (R-Nevada). The one thing they all have in common: their support has fallen in the wake of their opposition to gun reforms.
The drop depends on the state, with strongly conservative states being much more rewarding of a soft-on-crime vote against background checks. According to Benen, AZ Sen. Jeff Flake “has suddenly found himself as one of the nation’s least popular senators, with an approval rating of just 32%.” The only thing holding support up is the outside-the-mainstream Republican partisan opinion — “Nevada’s Heller only lost a few points off his approval rating, but among self-identified independents, his support has dropped from 52% to 42%.” The only Senator polled whose support rose was Toomey, who reached across the aisle to co-sponsor the bill.

The inside the beltway wisdom was that people didn’t care enough about the background check bill for it to make any difference. These numbers suggest that this is not true. And other polling suggests that a push for stricter gun regulations may pay off for candidates in Senate races. A new Gallup poll shows that 83% say they would personally vote for expanding background checks if they “could vote on key issues as well as candidates” on election day.

If candidates make it clear a vote for them is a vote for expanded background checks, it’s hard to see how that candidate wouldn’t get some sort of boost. After all, in this political climate, Republican voters will vote for Republican candidates. But indies — who favor such laws broadly — aren’t so closed-minded.

Once again, the GOP takes the minority position on an issue and it comes back to bite them in the rear end. Take the War on Women, add the gun issue, and things don’t look good for the party at all. If they blow immigration reform like it looks like they might, they’re screwed. By taking the least popular side on any given issue, they’re digging their own electoral grave.

[poll graphic by Steve Benen, Maddow Blog]

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