In mid-April, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) took a beating in the polls following her decision to vote against a proposal drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would have expanded background checks to all gun purchases made via the Internet or at gun shows.
According to a Public Policy Polling survey, Ayotte’s approval rating fell 15 points following her “no” vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment, with 46 percent of respondents disapproving and 44 percent of respondents approving.
The last time the PPP assessed the New Hampshire Republican’s approval rating in October of 2012, Ayotte had a 48 percent approval with only 35 percent disapproving, hence the net 15-point differential.
“New Hampshire is a good bellwether for fallout from the gun vote,” said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, when analyzing the poll numbers. “There’s serious backlash from voters toward Kelly Ayotte for how she handled this issue.”
Capitalizing off this downward momentum, local media and gun control advocacy groups started openly criticizing Ayotte and running attacks ads to impugn her reputation.
An editorial published in the Portsmouth Herald, titled “If you want gun control, vote Ayotte out of office” and read:
“New Hampshire voters who care passionately about sensible gun legislation can contribute to the effort by defeating U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the only senator in New England to vote against the Toomey-Manchin bill. Ayotte justified her vote by parroting the NRA, saying the measure would ‘place unnecessary burdens on law-abiding gun owners and allow for potential overreach by the federal government into private gun sales.’”
Additionally, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), a pro-gun control organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, released a commercial that accused Ayotte of “going Washington” and ignoring “the will of the people,” citing poll numbers that claim 89 percent New Hampshire residents favored universal background checks.
In response to all this negative publicity, the National Rifle Association is fighting back and has released its own radio ad that defends Ayotte for focusing on “meaningful bipartisan solutions” while opposing “misguided gun control laws that would not have prevented Sandy Hook.”
The ad does not explicitly state “expanded background checks” or “Manchin-Toomey amendment” but it’s rather evident that “misguided gun control laws” includes the M-T proposal.
“Kelly Ayotte is focused on prosecuting law-breakers and fixing our broken mental health system,” the ad states. “Call her at 202-224-3121 and thank her for focusing on protecting our kids and our New Hampshire values.”
Although she’s not up for re-election until 2016, gun control organizations are targeting Ayotte because they believe she’s vulnerable, that she can be flipped into voting for gun control reform in the future.
As noted in a previous Guns.com article, there’s a concerted effort by key lawmakers (Sens. Manchin, Schumer, McCain) to bring back the Manchin-Toomey proposal for another vote by year’s end. However, for it to be successful this time around, they need to find six more “yes” votes (M-T fell short of the 60 required to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, 54-46).
The only question now is: will Ayotte cave to the pressure and become one of those six votes or will she continue to stand with the NRA?