The move will surely add fuel to the already inflamed relationship between Bloomberg and Senate Democratic leaders who have previously told the mayor that attacking these senators could bolster Republican strength in the Senate, which would obviously hurt future chances for tougher gun laws.
But that complaint will no doubt be ignored. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a long-time strategist for the New York State Democratic Committee and a strong advocate of Hillary Clinton, recently said: “The fact that a Republican would get elected is irrelevant to our cause. On this issue, a Republican would not be worse.” Given that most Republicans want even looser gun laws, Wolfson's assessment seems well off the mark.
But it's billionaire Bloomberg and the seven-year-old group he founded and funded, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that's calling the shots. And they obviously think the pressure could push one or more of these senators to change their vote on background checks when (and if) that is brought up again this year or early next.
Read more about Bloomberg's strategy, and the senators he's targeting, below the fold.
Two of the senators in question—Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas—are targets that make sense from the mayor's perspective. They're seeking reelection in 2014 and they're quite vulnerable to Republican opponents with solid campaign organizations. But what's to be gained by cutting off six-term Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who is retiring in a year and a half? Or freshman Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who won't face the voters again until 2018?
MAIG has also targeted Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Jeff Flake of Arizona for their votes against background checks. But efforts against them seem half-hearted compared with what's been launched against the Democrats.
It's not as if progressives wouldn't like to see better Democrats in Pryor's and Begich's seats. There are any number of issues on which the two have caused eye-rolling and head-shaking. But choosing to help knock them off over gun laws to be replaced with rightist senators who vote wrong on guns and everything else is a strategy for losers. Not that this makes a difference to Bloomberg, who switches party affiliation whenever it suits his latest needs.
Mr. Bloomberg’s strategy creates a tricky situation for Senate Democrats. They do not wish to alienate the billionaire mayor, who has become increasingly aggressive and outspoken on the issue. But they say he should be more sympathetic, given that their party, with its fragile majority, has tried to take on the difficult subject of increasing restrictions on guns in the face of hostility from Republicans.Bloomberg isn't known as the nation's best listener, however, so these views aren't likely to have much impact on where the mayor decides to focus his attention even if that focus makes passage of an expanded background check law less rather than more likely.
“What they are doing,” said one senior Democratic aide who, like many people interviewed for this article, declined to go on the record criticizing the mayor, “is increasing the likelihood of a 100 percent A-rated N.R.A. Republican being elected.” [...]
Democrats say they would prefer an approach from Mr. Bloomberg that is more positive, and aimed not at the four Democrats, but at gun owners who support tighter restrictions and can be moved to pressure their senators.