A No Vote On Manchin/Toomey Is Unlikely To Hurt Any Senator

The odds that any of the Senators who voted no on Manchin/Toomey will pay a political price for doing so is low.

Gun Flag

In his Rose Garden remarks yesterday afternoon after the defeat of the Manchin/Toomey background checks bill, President Obama exhorted the American people to make sure that the politicians who voted against the bill heard from them. In addition to being delivered a far more strident and angry tone than we’re generally used to seeing from the President, this was an obvious appeal to the 2014 midterms, which are still some 19 months away. After all, it’s fairly obvious after yesterday that gun control is dead as an issue in the 112th Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Reid acknowledged as much this afternoon when he announced on the Senate floor that he was withdrawing the overall gun control bill from Senate consideration at this time. There’s always a possibility that the bill may be brought up some time between now and December 2014, but the odds of that happening are exceedingly low. Besides, even if the Senate did somehow managed to pass some kind of bill, it’s fate in the House would be doubtful at best. Instead, it would appear that Democrats and gun control advocates are going to rely on a strategy of keeping up the momentum that started with Newtown and hoping that this somehow leads to political success in 2014.

As Chris Cillizza notes, the political calculus isn’t very easy for gun control advocates:

The question is whether Obama and OFA really can change the political dynamic surrounding guns. A look at the 2014 electoral map suggests it will be a very tough lift.

First of all, of the 14 Republican seats up next November, only one sits in a state that President Obama won in 2012. And, that state’s Senator — Maine Sen. Susan Collins — was one of four Republicans who voted for the expanded background check amendment.

Second, of the four Democrats who voted against the background check amendment, three are up for for re-election in 2014 (Max Baucus, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich).  It’s hard to imagine President Obama or his political organization going after three of their own given that the battle for the Senate majority in 2014 is expected to be very, very close. (Also worth noting: There are seven Democratic-held seats — including Baucus, Pryor and Begich — up in 2014 in states that President Obama lost in 2012.)

What can — and likely will — be different going forward is that groups lobbying for more gun control laws will be far better financed and better organized, posing a genuine opposition voice to the National Rifle Association’s long-held dominance on the issue of guns. (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords have both formed pro-gun control groups.)

But, more money and better organization don’t necessarily translate to urgency and intensity, which is the most critical advantage that gun rights supporters currently enjoy over those who favor more strictures on guns.   And, it’s not clear whether anything that happens in the country or that President Obama (or OFA) can generate  passion on the gun control side of the argument that comes anywhere close to matching that which exists on the other side.

This is essentially what I argued in my posts yesterday — here and here — regarding the seeming discontinuity between public support for some gun control measures and the fact that politicians who vote against those measures don’t get voted out of office is because of the fact that gun control is a low priority issue for most voters, especially given the fact that it competes for attention in their decision making with issues like jobs and the economy. While there are certainly some one-issue voters out there, and indeed many of them can be found among the most passionate gun rights supporters, most Americans tend to vote for candidates based on what be called a “market basket” approach. No candidate is ever going to be 100% in alignment with every person that votes for them. That means that voters generally engage in some kind of balancing test where they have to decide what issues are most important to them. If there’s a candidate that Voter X agrees with on everything except gun control, and that voter thinks that the economy and jobs are the most important issues in a given election, then does anyone really think they’re going to vote against they candidate that they mostly totally disagree with because of their position on an issue that they don’t even consider very important? Of course they’re not going to do that. Unless and until gun control advocates find a way increase voter intensity on these issues far beyond the levels that they have been historically, the odds of them making people like the 46 Senators who voted against Manchin/Toomey are essentially non-existent.

The other problem that the gun control crowd faces in the coming months is the inevitable fact that public attention, and the attention of the pundit class, will inevitably move on to other things now that gun control is dead for another Congressional cycle. Lost in the busy news cycle of this week, for example, is the fact that the so-called “Gang of 8” released the text of it’s version of comprehensive immigration reform. Although the Senate is scheduled to head into another recess soon that will push any further legislative business until the beginning of May, this is the topic that will be the focus of Washington for the next several weeks if not months. Congress also needs to begin focusing on the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and the debt ceiling, which will start to become an issue again in about a month or so. Though it has drifted off the front pages, North Korea continues to huff and puff out in Southeast Asia. Finally, the Boston attacks could lead to a renewed focus on international or domestic terrorism with all the implications that entails. And that just covers the issues we know we’ll be  likely be dealing with between now and the end of the summer. The number of things that can or might pop up on our radar between now and November 2014 are uncountable and largely unknowable. The odds that public attention will remain focused on guns, even tangentially, strikes me as implausible. Add into this the fact that, historically, the party holding the White House tends to lose seats in Congress in a 6th year midterm election, and the prospects that any of the Senators who voted against Manchin/Toomey will “pay” for their vote strikes me as being exceedingly unlikely.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Guns and Gun Control, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. stonetools says:

    There will be another massacre , as sure as-well, shooting. That will focus the public’s attention once again.
    Maybe then the Democrats can do better.
    In the end, the gun rights advocates are simply going to have to build institutions that can counter NRA propoganda, NRA lobbying influence, and NRA money. It’s going to be a long war , and you don’t win a long war without strong institutions.
    Also too, long wars CAN be won. I imagine, Doug, that if you were living in 1945, you would think that there was no way that segregration would be ever be toppled in the South. It was in the end, though, and in “only” 20 years.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Your “here and here” links don’t have links, FYI.

    Otherwise, agreed. I doubt anyone will suffer for this. Not even the American people are onboard with gun control, or even more background checks.

  3. @Jeremy:

    Gah. Hit publish too early again. Fixed

  4. C. Clavin says:

    “…Residents of states with the highest rates of gun ownership and political conservatism are at greater risk of suicide than those in states with less gun ownership and less politically conservative leanings, according to a study by University of California, Riverside sociology professor Augustine J. Kposowa…”

    Best news I’ve heard all day.

  5. CB says:


    You indoctrinated zombie. Sex/Violence saturated Jewish controlled Media is responsible for Massacres, not guns.

    Shut ‘er down, we’ve gone as far as we can go.

    The Tsar should be along to discuss irony with you at any moment.

  6. Caj says:

    Those who voted no are nothing but gutless wonders! Scared stiff of a non elected bunch of nobody’s like the NRA. If they think their voting no won’t matter they better think again. This fight has only just started and they may well not be around to see the second round. Hope to God people will vote every last one of them out of office. They are all a disgrace to the country to put gun rights before a persons right to live freely and not in fear! Shame on them. Shame on them all!

  7. john personna says:

    I don’t know, some interesting data here, in three parts:

    Senator voting no to background checks.
    Voters in that state who support background checks,
    Senator’s rating by National Rifle Association

    Ayotte, Kelly (R-NH) 89% A
    Baucus, Max (D-MT) 79% A+
    Blunt, Roy (R-MO) 85% A
    Boozman, John (R-AZ) 84% A
    Burr, Richard (R-NC) 90% A
    Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) 91% A+
    Coats, Daniel (R-IN) 89% C+
    Coburn, Tom (R-OK) 87% A+
    Flake, Jeff (R-AZ) 90% A
    Grassley, Chuck (R-IA) 88% A
    Hatch, Orrin (R-UT) 83% A+
    Heitkamp, Heidi (D-ND) 94% A
    Hoeven, John (R-ND) 94% A
    Inhofe, James (R-OK) 87% A+
    Isakson, Johnny (R-GA) 91% A
    Lee, Mike (R-UT) 83% A
    McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) 82% A
    Paul, Rand (R-KY) 82% A
    Portman, Rob (R-OH) 83% A
    Pryor, Mark (D-AR) 84% C+
    Reed, Harry (D-NV) 86% B
    Rubio, Marco (R-FL) 94% B+
    Thune, John (R-SD) 79% A+
    Vitter, David (R-LA) 85% A

    How can so many senators, go so far against their constituents? Money, or is it just inertia and a disbelief that background checks are actually broadly accepted in pro-gun states?

  8. Jeremy says:

    @stonetools: What no one can tell me is how gun control–and that includes universal background checks and restrictions on magazines–will stop another shooting.


    I mean, we banned murder*, marijuana use, and abortion (in some places). That doesn’t stop murder or marijuana use or abortions from happening. What is to say, therefore, that gun control bills will somehow stop gun violence?

    If you really want to stop gun violence in America, end the drug war. Most gun violence is caused by gangs, who are primarily funded via the illegal drug trade. Let Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb do recreational drugs, and the gangs’ funding will dry up. Oh, and just FYI, gun violence is a tiny, tiny amount of deaths in this country. There are more deaths due to fists and baseball bats than guns.

    Furthermore, incidents like Newtown are a rarity. They are a total outlier. Are we really going to start legislating to take away people’s rights because of extremely rare events? That’s an argument for the PATRIOT Act and the NDAA. That’s not a wise one.

    *Before anyone comes in here and says “Oh, so should we just legalize murder, then?” just stop before you use such third-grade lunacy. Murder is illegal because it intrinsically violates the rights of the victim and is intrinsically immoral. What is immoral about merely owning a gun? I could have a gun, leave it in a safe for the rest of eternity, and I violate no one’s rights nor break any moral principles. If you do really think that mere ownership is immoral and violates rights, though, then you should also have no problem with the government saying you can’t own a car, or your computer, or even the clothes on your back, for whatever reason the government says. And do not say they are different; they are all forms of property. The gun itself cannot kill by itself. It needs someone to direct it, to point it, to shoot it. In that manner, it is no different from a car…or a pressure cooker.

  9. Jeremy says:

    @C. Clavin: Best news all day? That’s pretty detestable.

  10. Jeremy says:

    @uma: Is this satire or are you serious?


  11. john personna says:

    I would like to answer my own question, from above.

    What happened was that “NRA types” responded to “background checks” as if they were “gun control.”

    Less political (less “intense”) voters could distinguish between the two. After all, while the checks might have added some paperwork, they did not change the consensus view on who should have guns, under the second amendment. A felon should not get a gun, regardless of who is the seller.

  12. @john personna:

    Money, or is it just inertia and a disbelief that background checks are actually broadly accepted in pro-gun states?

    No, it’s because these right-wingers support background checks….but not that much and definitely not if it can give the Democrats a legislative victory.

    Sorry, but the thread over at Giffords, as well as years of running commentary on this subject, has convinced me that if given the choice to do something minor but reasonable or to be a dick……the right opts for “Be a dick” every time.

  13. stonetools says:


    What is bad is that the NRA and gun rights advocates would have no problems with you being able to walk into a a gun shop and walk out half a hour later with all the all the semi-automatic weapons, ammunition, and body armor you want , ready to blow away the Jewish/black/yellow hordes that are coming to take away “your” America.
    Thanks for demonstrating the kind of paranoia that the NRA taps into. Its certain than the liberals can’t tap into such passion, even if they wanted to.

  14. john personna says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Perhaps you are right, and my hopes were too high.

    On the other hand, 94% of Floridians supported background checks, and Marco Rubio voted them down. That won’t help him in a close general election.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    “…@stonetools: You indoctrinated zombie. Sex/Violence saturated Jewish controlled Media is responsible for Massacres, not guns. History is repeating. Jewish dominated Weimar Republic enforced strict gun control, then unleashed hyperinflation to destroy German families.
    Once the Jews get your guns, they will unleash hyperinflation (Bernanke, Greenspan, Blankfein, Dimon cabal), confiscate your property, your Bill of rights will be abolished. this is not an ideological battle of left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism. vs liberty. This is ethnic warfare against white people…”

    Wow. OTB has topped out. It will never get any better. This is the perfect comment.

  16. stonetools says:


    What no one can tell me is how gun control–and that includes universal background checks and restrictions on magazines–will stop another shooting.


    Well, it can’t, anymore than homicide laws can stop all homicides and traffic laws can stop all traffic accidents.
    But you wouldn’t want a situation where anybody could drive at any speed, on any side of the road they want, without licensing requirements, car registration, or liability insurance. That would be a much worse traffic accident situation than now, and it describes the situation with gun laws today. What you do is create a legal framework that drastically lowers the likelihood of gun death-something every other modern industrialized country has done.
    There’s nothing immoral about owning a gun, just like thee”s nothing immoral about driving a car. But guns kill, better than any weapon we have in common use. Cars kill too, which is why we closely regulation the operation of cars in a way we don’t with guns, which, paradoxically, are specifically designed to kill-and do kill, more than anything else.

  17. wr says:

    @uma: Hey Uma — I’m a Jew. And now I know about you.

  18. @john personna:

    my hopes were too high.

    If your hopes could measured with a positive integer greater than zero, then…..yes, they were probably too high.

    Funny thing….I watched Tremors this weekend. Great movie from my youth! Everyone remembers Burt and his gun wall, the elephant gun, him and Reba unloading on the graboid that burst through his wall. But do they remember the Fred Ward quip afterwards? “I guess we can’t make fun of his lifestyle now.” Not in 2013!!!! Every winger with a .38 thinks he’s Burt, or could be if we liberals quit grabbing for their guns.

    There was another part where the irresponsible, asshole kid wants a gun. Burt –the gun nut, mind you– steadfastly refuses. “I wouldn’t give you a gun if it were World War 3,” he says.

    If they were to remake that movie now, they’d have to make some changes. First….Burt is no longer an object of ridicule. He’s Rambo. Second, not only does the kid get a gun; he gets an AR-15 and a handgun with a 30 round clip. Because, you know….how else is he going to defend himself from graboids?

    Tremors came out in 1990. The culture has changed in those 23 years. In a very weird, decidedly non-conservative and, frankly irresponsible, way.

  19. edmondo says:


    Don’t take it personally, I am sure that Uma considers anyone who disagrees with him with him “a Jew”

    OTOH he just made one helluva case for background checks !!!!!!

  20. Tyrell says:

    @john personna: I am not against these background checks. We need a better system of registering, tracking, and keeping up with career criminals, thugs, gang members, hoodlums, and drug pushers. And I am not talking about people who have traffic offenses or overdue library books. We need a system of registration like the systems that a lot of states use that helps people keep up with sex offenders. Then people will be able to take back control of their neighborhoods and clean out the hoodlums.

  21. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: You’re a Jew? Damn, first thing I’ve learned about you that I respect.

    Probably the last, too…

  22. JKB says:

    Just for perspective, restrictive gun control can’t even be passed in Illinois


    On Wednesday, the same day the US Senate voted down gun control legislation, powerful Democrat Speaker Michael Madigan tried to push a restrictive gun control measure through his chamber. The result was an open revolt by downstate Democrats, with almost half the Democrat caucus joining the GOP to kill the measure. The bill went down 31-76, a rare defeat for the legendary Madigan.

  23. barbintheboonies says:

    I have guns yet I believe in background checks. I also protect my guns from getting in the wrong hands.

  24. Jeremy says:


    What you do is create a legal framework that drastically lowers the likelihood of gun death-something every other modern industrialized country has done.

    Yes, I would concur–except what most gun control advocates are proposing would do diddly squat, so why bother in the first place?

    As for your roads example, let me just say I am against insurance in general for the moral hazards I think it induces, so I’m not for requiring people to have liability insurance. But that’s more of a general principle. I’ve also heard very good arguments for not having car registration or driver’s licenses, and I also–just to state this for the record–think all drunk driving and speeding and all those other penalties should be replaced with one reckless driving law.

    I’m kinda okay with having that for guns too, and also–for the record–I’m okay with requiring training before you can use a firearm. I have no problem with that. But so far, I don’t think anyone has actually proposed that. I also offer that up only as a compromise in this political environment.

    Now, to get into some moral philosophy, you can’t restrict rights. You just can’t. Not unless there would be a catastrophic moral horror, and when you realize that guns account for only .34% of all deaths (2011 – http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/15/Percentage-of-Deaths-That-Were-Gun-Related-In-2011-34-percent), that’s not catastrophic moral horror. (I use the term “catastrophic moral horror” as Robert Nozick kinda-sorta defines it, and there’s no way I see gun ownership as approaching that. I’d link to a blog post on it here, but I think OTB would think my comment is spam and block it.)

    What I’m trying to say is that I’m not a “Zero Regulation Anarcho-Capitalist.” I’m not. I’m with Hayek. I think we should have a presumption against regulation, but there is room for a minimal, yet broad, set of universal rules that we can all play by. However, what gun control advocates want are not a broad set of universal rules, but instead specific rules to take people’s personal information and make it more difficult via bureaucratic paperwork to exercise their natural right of owning a firearm. And all for absolutely no increase in safety or security whatsoever. None.

    Also, I just want to end this comment by saying thank you for not biting my head off and playing “Let’s race to the meme!” game, because that really, really, effing annoys me.

  25. JKB says:

    Well, it’s been an interesting day. No doubt many in Boston gave some thought having a gun in their house. We’ll let that marinate.

    This guy from New Jersey has some actual data to marinate in.

    Lovely. I’m there to comply with the law while everyone else is there because they broke the law. What’s wrong with this picture? It’s a wonder I didn’t walk out of there with a complex about Government overreach. Like someone was coming to snatch the guns I don’t even really want. It’s probably my own irrational snobbery, but it all kinda made me feel like a little bit less of a citizen.

    Suddenly I caught a big whiff of whatever it is that make gun nuts so, well, nutty.

    All this for the very same toy BB gun I had as a 6-year-old.

    All in all, it took 4 1/2 weeks before my firearm permit finally arrived in the mail. I was surprised it didn’t include a picture, which seemed curious, given the paces applicants are put through. I hadn’t planned to buy the BB gun, but now felt compelled to test the new ID see if they’d ask for a license (or something with a photo) as well. They didn’t. I could’ve been anybody. I think I started banging my head on the counter at that point.

  26. al-Ameda says:


    You indoctrinated zombie. Sex/Violence saturated Jewish controlled Media is responsible for Massacres, not guns. History is repeating. Jewish dominated Weimar Republic enforced strict gun control, then unleashed hyperinflation to destroy German families.

    Not only that, Jews control an entire continent, Antarctica – nothing but Icebergs!

  27. al-Ameda says:


    Well, it’s been an interesting day. No doubt many in Boston gave some thought having a gun in their house. We’ll let that marinate.

    I’m sure that they’re thinking that, if only those marathon runners and those spectators had been carrying weapons, this whole tragedy could have been averted.

  28. JKB says:


    Yep, that was what they were thinking will confined to their homes with as the police commissioner put it, a terrorist on the loose who wants to kill some people. Not about their home security, they were thinking about an event 3 days earlier.

    Ironic isn’t it. The criminals in Boston had a means to protect themselves from the terrorist had he sought to invade their homes but not the law abiding. Hmm?