Monday, April 07, 2008

Obama Courting Pro-Gun Voters in PA

A smart play on his part if he's hoping to close the gap with Clinton.

From The Politico:

Barack Obama did not hunt or fish as a child. He lives in a big city. And as an Illinois state legislator and a U.S. senator, he consistently backed gun control legislation.

But he is nevertheless making a play for pro-gun voters in rural Pennsylvania.

By highlighting his background in constitutional law and downplaying his voting record, Obama is engaging in a quiet but targeted drive to win over an important constituency that on the surface might seem hostile to his views.

The need to craft a strategy aimed at pro-gun voters underscores the potency of the issue in Pennsylvania, which claims one of the nation’s highest per capita membership rates in the National Rifle Association.

It also could provide clues as to whether Obama, as one of the Senate’s more liberal members, can position himself as an acceptable choice to a conservative-minded demographic in later primary contests and in the general election.
The campaign has asked gun rights advocates like state Rep. Dan Surra, a Democrat from rural Elk County with an “A+” rating from the NRA, to form a coalition of supporters who can vouch for Obama.

“It is clear out there that I am for Obama, and they have reached out to me as a sportsman and a gun owner,” Surra said Thursday. “There has been an outreach to pro-gun legislators, pro-gun people who are sympathetic to Obama’s message.”

The campaign sent an e-mail this week to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, saying it would “appreciate all sportsmen taking time to learn the facts: Our candidate strongly supports the right and traditions of sportsmen throughout Pennsylvania and the United States of America.”

And with an endorsement last month from Sen. Bob Casey Jr., Obama got a boost within a community that the Pennsylvania Democrat has courted assiduously. As part of an initiative to move beyond his party’s traditional bases during the 2006 Senate campaign, Casey visited stock car races, demolition derbies and gun clubs. Campaign operatives to both senators are now working closely together.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton does not appear to be making the same level of effort. She has reminded audiences in the last few months that she learned to shoot a gun during childhood vacations in Scranton and bagged a duck as an adult. But neither the state Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs nor her pro-gun Democratic supporters have heard of any specific campaign outreach.
Additionally CNN reports that he's outspending Clinton 3:1 on PA and that he's managed to close the gap between them to seven points. Thats important because Obama doesn't have to win PA to stay in the game. All he has to do is not lose by much. After all if he can go to the convention with a triple digit lead over Clinton he'll seem to be the stronger candidate.

However The Politico article does shine light onto what could prove to his Achilles heel in the general election.
Obama has long backed gun-control measures, including a ban on semiautomatic weapons and concealed weapons, and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month. He has declined to take a stance on the legality of the handgun prohibition in Washington, D.C., which the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing, although Obama has voiced support for the right of state and local governments to regulate guns.
Simply put McCain's voting record on gun rights is better than Obama's. If Obama stands by his voting record he risks losing pro-gun moderates. If he states that his current position differs from his voting record it'll appear opportunistic and risk looking like any other politician which will cost him moderates who are truly looking for an "agent of change". Its a bit of a catch-22 but how well Obama handles the issue may be a prime indicator of what to expect from him as president.