MSNBC host Chuck Todd misleadingly claimed that the lesson for Democrats of the recall of two state senators who supported stronger gun laws is to stay away from the issue, claiming that Colorado Democrats had only been able to win recent statewide elections because they “neutralized the gun issue.” But several Democrats have won elections in the state despite attacks from the National Rifle Association over their support for stronger gun laws.
On September 10, Colorado State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15-round limitation on firearm magazine size. The elections featured an extremely low turnout, in part due to irregular voting rules.
Discussing the election results on Morning Joe, Todd concluded that Democrats will no longer want to be associated with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, its co-chair Michael Bloomberg, or the effort to strengthen gun laws. According to Todd, “the whole reason why [Colorado] is a state that was looking like it was just passing through swing state status on its way to being reliably Democratic is because Democrats starting in 2004 just neutralized the gun issue, and there was never any Democrat that ran statewide that was not seen as pro-gun.”
Discussing the issue on his own program The Daily Rundown, Todd highlighted how President Obama twice won Colorado and other Democrats had repeatedly won statewide races in Colorado over the last decade because they had “neutralized the NRA,” portraying the recalls as a foreboding course correction that happened because the legislature acted on guns.
But Todd's claim that Colorado Democrats had previously “neutralized the gun issue” and that “there was never any Democrat that ran statewide that was not seen as pro-gun” is false. While candidates frequently push back against false claims that they support gun confiscation and the like, and in some cases publicly associate themselves with Colorado's sportsmen and hunting culture, they nonetheless have been targeted by the NRA for their support for stronger gun laws.
President Obama won twice in the state despite his own NRA F-rating and the millions of dollars it spent in an “All In” campaign to defeat him in Colorado and elsewhere. The NRA warned prior to the 2012 election that President Obama had a plot to “destroy the Second Amendment” in his second term.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns before seeking higher office, and was given an F-rating by the National Rifle Association, which called him a “true enemy of gun owners' rights” and endorsed his opponent in the 2010 race.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) also received stiff opposition from the NRA in 2010, including an extensive radio and direct mail campaign that warned that Bennet had “sponsored legislation to undermine our rights.”
MAIG co-chair Bloomberg endorsed both Hickenlooper and Bennet. According to The New York Times, those endorsements “hinge on several factors [including] a person's level of independence and record on immigration and guns.”
These elections may show that the NRA's efforts have been ineffective because their pro-gun message does not move voters in Colorado, but they certainly don't show that candidates in statewide elections are only winning because of pro-gun stances.