by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A leading gun-control group is spending millions to boost swing state Democrats, but its latest ads highlight non-gun issues, potentially signaling the limited appeal of gun restrictions in many key Senate races.
Everytown for Gun Safety’s super PAC, backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is running ads in Iowa and North Carolina that go beyond the group’s core mission of gun control. The ads attack Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) and Senator Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) on health care and energy in addition to mentioning gun issues.
“Ernst has taken thousands and thousands from big oil, the insurance industry, and the gun lobby,” narration in the group’s Iowa ad said. “Voting for them, against us. That’s Joni Ernst.”
In North Carolina, the group first criticized Tillis’s vote to repeal Obamacare and contributions from the health insurance lobby before taking aim at his vote on universal background checks and contributions from gun-rights groups. The ad then claims Tillis’s door is “always open” for “lobbyists with cash.”
Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Everytown’s attempt to appeal to issues beyond the Second Amendment could indicate that the group is not confident in gun control’s appeal in swing states.
“One reason Everytown brings up those other issues may be that the Democratic Senate candidates in Iowa and North Carolina will probably need some Trump voters to win,” Coleman told the Washington Free Beacon. “In both states, there were several Obama-to-Trump counties in rural areas. Hitting Republicans on gun control may not be enough to make them unacceptable to those voters.”
The Everytown strategy is in contrast to the one employed by the National Rifle Association’s super PAC so far.