History doesnt repeat itself exactly, but it often appears to. This years presidential campaign echoes loudly with refrains from the 1994 congressional election. Two weeks out, it also appears to be one of the closest presidential elections in more than 20 years.
If Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the presidential election on Nov. 7, it will be because the gun issue produced the margin of victory in a bunch of battleground states.
Polling reports on voter preferences published by Oct. 23 indicate a neck-and-neck race. No matter which poll is cited and which candidate is given the lead, it is usually within the margin of error for that poll. If polls are to be trusted at all, the lead has switched back and forth for months.
The gun issue, which was loudly touted as a defining issue that would help Vice President Al Gore before, during and after the major party conventions, has largely been set aside or concealed by his campaign.
Two weeks before the election, even major anti-gun newspapers are saying the gun issue is not a plus for Gore and may be his undoing in several battleground states. Key among these pivotal states are Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. To a lesser extent, the issue may help determine the margin of victory in Florida and Illinois as well.
The issue of gunsonce seen as a potential winner for Democratsis now threatening the partys prospects of keeping the White House and regaining control of Congress, according to strategists and officials with both major parties, The Washington Post reported.
As a result, Vice President Gore has moderated his anti-gun rhetoric in recent weeks, going out of his way in the last two presidential debates to emphasize that he would not take guns away from sportsmen. And many House and Senate Democrats have found that gun control is not resonating in many key contests like other issues, such as prescription drugs, The Post reported.
Observers had originally been placed many of the listed states in the Gore column because of economic issues, Democratic enrollment edges and union influence. But many of the union members in those states are also hunters and gunowners. They dont necessarily buy the union and Gore camp claim that he is really pro-gun.
The unions arent the only ones offering advice. The National Rifle Association is also campaigning publicly in those states. In mid-October, NRA President Charlton Heston, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, and NRA-ILA head James Jay Baker held a series of rallies in several cities in three of those statesMichigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The NRA estimates that in excess of 20,000 people crowded into the halls to hear the anti-Gore, pro-Bush speeches. In addition, get-out-the-vote rallies in other states have reminded pro-gun voters of Gores role in passing Clintons gun bills and of his stated agenda for more new restrictions on gun ownership.
In addition, the NRA is running advertising that warns people of what is likely to happen to their Second Amendment rights if Gore wins the election. Of course, the NRA and other pro-gun organizations have also mailed candidate rating charts not only for the White House race but for US Senate and House races as well as state races.
At the state rallies, other pro-gun candidates have either appeared or been recommended by speakers, who appealed to patriotism and links to Americas revolutionary heroes.
They won their freedom with bullets so that we could defend our freedom with ballots, Heston told the crowd at various stops. That is the holy war which you in this room help wage and win. But instead of fighting the Redcoats, were fighting the blue-blood elitists.
So heated has the gun issue become that President Clinton, who has done little public campaigning for Gore so far, renewed his verbal warfare with the National Rifle Association on Oct. 22 in New York state. He accused the pro-gun group of trying to scare voters into supporting Republican candidates.
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