Guns May Give Democrats a Shot at 2014

Gun debate could become central campaign theme in suburban districts around the country.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., speaks after maintaining his seat in the U.S. House during a Republican Party election night gathering in the club level of Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., represents Aurora, a Denver suburb and the site of the theater shooting that left 12 dead last summer. His seat is considered a toss-up by analysts who say it's a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.

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But while Democrats see public opinion on gun control trending their way, Republican strategists say even more blue dog Democrats in conservative locales will have to carefully balance their positions on guns. Many use their NRA endorsements to separate themselves from the Democratic party.

"The Democrats think this is a big win for them, but it will put some of their members who they need to keep in the House in a really tough position," says a Republican campaign strategist.

One of those lawmakers, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., who showed off his family's guns during a campaign ad last fall, has stayed critical of President Barack Obama's suggestions to limit high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. Barrow, like many blue dog Democrats, faces re-election in a district that Mitt Romney won by large margins 2012.

Barrow's office did not return a call for comment on his position.

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A n NRA spokesman says that the gun lobby is ready to get involved in districts where they see candidates on what they deem the wrong side of gun rights. And anyone who thinks the NRA isn't watching, should look at past races.

"There are a lot of politicians who went into retirement involuntarily because they believed they could prevail by supporting gun control," the spokesman says. The NRA says it is not especially worried about suburban districts Democrats claim are prime for pickup.

"It would be wrong for anyone to assume that we are somehow not as strong in suburban areas," the NRA spokesman says "In most suburban areas most people are as concerned about their safety as they are in rural areas. Personal safety is an issue that transcends zip codes."

But while both parties want to claim that gun politics might secure them a majority, some experts are skeptical that the gun issue will have the lasting power to play a role in 2014.

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"I just don't see 2014 being all about gun control," says Kyle Kondik, a congressional expert at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "The background check is a measure that polls really well and I don't see it as that big of a political lightning rod."

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