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The Most Important Number in Politics Today



Guns. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

20

That's the number of Democrats who backed an amendment offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that would have allowed gun owners to carry guns across state lines.

The measure, which came up two votes short of the 60 votes needed for passage, highlights the perils still present in the electorate for the Democratic party -- even in spite of its current dominant political positioning.

Democrats have won in Republican-leaning states (and nationally) over the last few elections by de-emphasizing -- some would say ignoring entirely -- controversial social issues like guns and abortion, knowing that the American public is deeply divided on the matters. A late April Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 51 percent of respondents favored stricter gun rights while 48 percent opposed such strictures.

How voters feel about the right to bear arms is also heavily dependent on where they live. City dwellers and suburbanites tend to be more strongly in favor of more limits on gun ownership while those who live in less populated rural areas are broadly supportive of the right to own a weapon.

That dichotomy is apparent in a quick analysis of the Senate vote. Of the 20 Senators who voted for the Thune amendment just two -- Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Russ Feingold (Wisc.) -- represent states that went for the Democratic presidential nominee in each of the last two elections; ten of the 20 represent states that the Democratic nominee lost in 2004 and 2008.

What's clear from the vote on Thune's amendment is that although Democrats portray themselves as one big happy family, there are significant undercurrents of concern among some of their membership about being portrayed as insufficiently centrist on social issues.

It's the curse of a large majority; Democrats have picked up 14 Senate seats over the last two elections -- many of which have shown a past tendency to support Republicans at the national level -- and, as a result, have a more ideologically broad caucus than in years past.

Make no mistake -- it's a problem Republicans would love to have. But, it's a potential problem nonetheless as we look to 2012 and beyond.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 22, 2009; 2:53 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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Comments

I think the 20 Democratic senators were allowed to vote for the ammendment as a sop to help with their reelection in close states.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 23, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

20 Dems voted for concealed weapons, huh? THAT must have cost the NRA a pretty penny...if they keep this up, they;ll have to declare bankruptcy!

Posted by: free-donny | July 22, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

With so many Republicans unabashedly standing in the way of all the nation's business, I think it's long past time for Obama to be deferential and it's time to just steamroller over Republican opposition.

And each time he should invite Republicans, individually rather than collectively, to stop the antics and start acting like professionals.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 22, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I guess that's what WH meant about bipartisan-ship. :)

Posted by: ryip | July 22, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

This allowed Democrats like Webb and Warner from gun-loving VA to vote yea, denying McDonnel and the GOP a potent rallying cry in this fall's election.

==

Canny!

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 22, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I'm moving to Việt Nam. Guns are illegal there. Only soldiers and security guards have them.

In the USA you have to worry about getting shot just for passing someone on the freeway

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 22, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it significant that Voinovich, who is retiring at the end of his current term, voted against the amendment?

He is probably showing true feelings.

But perhaps more importantly, he represents a swing state, Ohio.

Posted by: whobedatlupe | July 22, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

"political crackheads"? I think you have coined the new catch phrase, Ddawd.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 22, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

"DDAWD

Here is what I was thinking.
Political resume building requires votes
no one thinks are a big deal at the time.

Later, you can either bury the vote or blow it up to hero/savior status.

These votes have to have "plausible deniability". Summer vacation time is perfect, some big spending bill, etc. A bill coming out of committee on its own might have (horrors!) people debating it, a person might actually have to say why they voted for or against it. Amendments are where Democrats get to vote for gun rights and Republicans get to vote against States' rights. "

Yeah, that's a good way of looking at it. I wonder how many people know of this vote or if its just us political crackheads that are privy.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 22, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"Why is having an ideologically broad caucus a bad idea? it's far better than having a rigid, hidebound-no-new-ideas-ever one.

But somehow, everything is Bad News for Democrats."

You know, Chris never said any of these things. He never said it's a bad idea. He never said it's better than being rigid. He never said this was bad news.

In fact, he said that the Republicans would love to be in this position.

He said there are difficulties in having an ideologically broad caucus. And guess what? It's true!! Given that you need 60 votes to do anything now, you've got to satisfy the guys in the middle and that will cause some problems.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 22, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD

Here is what I was thinking.
Political resume building requires votes
no one thinks are a big deal at the time.

Later, you can either bury the vote or blow it up to hero/savior status.

These votes have to have "plausible deniability". Summer vacation time is perfect, some big spending bill, etc. A bill coming out of committee on its own might have (horrors!) people debating it, a person might actually have to say why they voted for or against it. Amendments are where Democrats get to vote for gun rights and Republicans get to vote against States' rights.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 22, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Why is having an ideologically broad caucus a bad idea? it's far better than having a rigid, hidebound-no-new-ideas-ever one.

But somehow, everything is Bad News for Democrats.

Posted by: drindl | July 22, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats only used up as many votes on this as they needed, and took them from their safest states. This allowed Democrats like Webb and Warner from gun-loving VA to vote yea, denying McDonnel and the GOP a potent rallying cry in this fall's election. You'll see that pattern repeated in other states."

Incidentally, the Republicans are having the reverse issue. Since they are down to 40 Senators, they need unanimity in order to filibuster any bill (assuming no Democratic defectors) This puts the party in a tough spot with the New England Republicans who don't have the luxury of token votes to please their constituents. This will lead to Republicans having to use heavy handed techniques to keep their coalition intact. However, it is this heavy handedness that led to the defection of Arlen Specter. Now I don't see any other Republicans defecting anytime soon (Gregg is retiring anyways) I do think this puts both the party and the moderates in untenable positions. The party leaders are going to have to start being very selective as to when they are going to bring out the sticks. They can't do it for every issue.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 22, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who says, or implys, that the Democrats are one happy unified family is pretty naive (to be kind). Democrats have never been unified. That is one of their strengths. They are able to vote according to the interests of their states/districts without fear of punishment. On the contrary, the GOP demands absolute displine to the party line even when the senator/representative is required to vote against the interests of their state/district. That is what got us into such a problem during the Bush Administration.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | July 22, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who point out that it's no mistake the vote was close.

Democrats only used up as many votes on this as they needed, and took them from their safest states. This allowed Democrats like Webb and Warner from gun-loving VA to vote yea, denying McDonnel and the GOP a potent rallying cry in this fall's election. You'll see that pattern repeated in other states.

Posted by: nodebris | July 22, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

"This was a political resume stunt, if anyone were serious, it would not have been attached to another bill."

If this was strictly for show, wouldn't it have made more sense NOT to try and sneak it into another bill, but to make it front and center?

Posted by: DDAWD | July 22, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of not shooting straight, most of the pistols in the picture are lemons. Is that an antique store, a pawnshop?

Posted by: shrink2 | July 22, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

reason5, thanks. Lugar's vote is a bit surprising, to me.

the full list is here:
http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=1&vote=00237

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 22, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

again, mikeinmidland is correct

This was a political resume stunt, if anyone were serious, it would not have been attached to another bill.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 22, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

20 DEMS WHO CAN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT


Embarrassingly close vote for the Dems....

Obama should have taken Reid to the woodshed on this issue. How can he expect to get his agenda through Congress when he can't control his own Majority Leader on a wingnut gun bill?

The Thune proposal is emblematic of the hometown authoritarianism that has subverted democracy and the rule of law at the grassroots -- apparently under the radar of POTUS, Emanuel, Axelrod & Co.

Team Obama: Wake up and smell the police state that you enable by your naivete:

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "GESTAPO USA" (see "stream" or "stories" listing.)

Posted by: scrivener50 | July 22, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: No, they were not Collins & Snowe. Both Collins & Snowe voted for the bill. The 2 Republicans were Indiana Senator Dick Lugar & Ohio Senator George Voinvoich. By the way, Indiana Democratic senator Evan Bayh voted for the bill.

Posted by: reason5 | July 22, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats have picked up 14 Senate seats over the last two elections -- many of which have shown a past tendency to support Republicans at the national level -- and, as a result, have a more ideologically broad caucus than in years past."

Agreed. In Missouri, Robin Carnahan (D) is well-liked and may well take Senator Kit Bond's vacated seat even though the Republican contender, Roy Blunt, has just moved ahead of her in fund raising. http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2009/07/15/blunt-outraises-carnahan-mo-senate-race/

During the presidential election, John McCain barely squeaked through with the majority vote in Missouri, and it will be interesting to see if the political tide is changing in what has hitherto been not only Republican territory but "old boys" territory as well. If Ms. Carnahan can win, Missouri's U.S. Senators will both be females (Claire McCaskill is the other senator). That would be change I could believe.

Posted by: Kelly14 | July 22, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: No, they were not Collins & Snowe. Both Collins & Snowe voted for the bill. The 2 Republicans were Indiana Senator Dick Lugar & Ohio Senator George Voinvoich. By the way, Indiana Democratic senator Evan Bayh voted for the bill.

Posted by: reason5 | July 22, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I love your reporting in general, but in this case, it's really not fair to paint the Dems as having "undercurrents of concern." Were their angry words or, accusations of treason? No, their majority is simply large enough to allow 20 of their members to get cover on this issue. The vote was never really in question.

Posted by: shykin | July 22, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I would be willing to bet that as Gallenod said more people voted for this because they knew that it wouldn't pass. I bet Reid himself would have voted against it if he needed to to keep it off the floor.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 22, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse
_________________________________

I'd take that bet in a heartbeat. Have you ever been to Vermont? The green mountain folks only vote for people that support gun rights.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | July 22, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

"If those two Republicans didn't vote against Thune"

Were they Snowe & Collins, by the way?

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 22, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I would be willing to bet that as Gallenod said more people voted for this because they knew that it wouldn't pass. I bet Reid himself would have voted against it if he needed to to keep it off the floor.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 22, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Has Sen. Chrissy Dodd (DEMOCRUD - CT)

refinanced his Countrywide loan ?

Posted by: hclark1 | July 22, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse


If those two Republicans didn't vote against Thune, two more moderate Democrats would have been persuaded to vote against him.

For sure, some pro-NRA Democrats had to split their loyalties on this one, but it wasn't going to pass.

I think Thune just wanted to burnish his conservative credentials, and maybe separate a few vulnerable Democrats from their NRA endorsements.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | July 22, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Did the 20 Democrats vote for the amendment because they were really in favor of it or were they allowed to vote for it as political cover because the Senate Democratic leadership knew they had enough votes to neutralize it without them?

Posted by: Gallenod | July 22, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Nice picture

Posted by: DDAWD | July 22, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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