Another Democrat in a tough spot is Louisiana’s Landrieu. The three-term senator could be badly hurt by voting for such prominent gun-control measures. “There’s no question that Louisiana is pro-gun,” says Kirby Goidel, a Louisiana State University professor and senior public-policy fellow of the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs. Landrieu, Goidel notes, won’t win the voters most concerned about gun rights no matter what. Still, she can’t afford to go too leftward on the issue.
“She might be able to vote for some of the measures,” he says. “She would have to be very selective. She would want to show her independence from President Obama, because that’s going to be the thing that people would to try to tie her to in the 2014 campaign. And so I would be surprised if she went very far in that direction in terms of supporting gun-control measures.”
Quin Hillyer, a Louisiana native who worked for Louisiana Republican congressman Robert Livingston in the Nineties, says that Landrieu must “support something” to keep “her base [and] her liberal activists enthused.” But he anticipates her supporting something along the lines of spending more on police or banning armor-piercing bullets.
“In terms of anything that actually limits any sort of gun,” Hillyer says, “if she votes for it, she’s coming close to committing political hara-kiri.”
The state GOP, however, is already looking ahead to making gun control a big issue. Joe Biden will fundraise for Landrieu later this month, and Jason Dore, executive director of the state GOP, says Republicans will highlight that Biden is “the spokesperson for gun control.”
Dore also sees potential for using gun control as an issue in 2014.
“In 2008, it wasn’t an issue. I don’t think guns in general were that much on people’s minds,” but now, in light of the new gun-control push, gun-rights activists are energized, Dore says. “I think it gives us a great opportunity and puts her in quite a difficult position.”
Presidential advisor David Plouffe told CNN on Sunday that “there are 60 votes in the Senate, 218 votes in the House, if these votes come up for some of these gun-safety measures.” But if that’s the case, Jay Rockefeller may not be the only Democrat in a red state who’s planning to retire in 2014.