Five senators buck parties on guns

Five senators up for reelection in 2014 bucked their parties in the Senate’s procedural vote on gun control Thursday.

Both Democrats who voted against the motion face reelection next year in states President Obama lost in the 2012 presidential election: Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.).

Three of the 16 Republicans who voted in favor of the motion face reelection next year: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

ADVERTISEMENT
Wednesday’s motion was a procedural vote that doesn’t even formally begin debate on the gun control measure, but it was still a politically touchy vote.

President Obama and gun control advocates pressed for the vote, while the National Rifle Association warned it would negatively score the votes of any senator who voted to proceed on the issue.

Democrats up for reelection in red states next year who voted with their party and against the NRA include Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Max Baucus (Mont.).

Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rand Paul (Texas) both carried through on their promise to vote against the motion. Both are possible presidential contenders in 2016, and their votes against the motion could fire up GOP primary voters.

Though in a general election, the votes against moving toward a debate on gun control could open them up to attacks.

Both Democrats who voted with the NRA are top political targets for Republicans.

A recent poll funded by the Club for Growth found Pryor behind potential challenger Rep. Tom Cotton (R ) by 10 percentage points.

In Alaska, polls suggest Begich is vulnerable, and he already has one prominent potential opponent in Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who recently opened an exploratory committee to look into a bid.

Landrieu is also considered vulnerable but has exhibited a willingness to buck the red-state Democratic trend of showing independence by voting against her party on controversial measures.

On Thursday, she reported raising $1.2 million in the first quarter, which may be boosting her confidence. On the GOP side, Collins is running in a state easily won in 2012 by Obama and where legislators are considering a suite of gun control bills. The president's advocacy arm, Organizing for Action, has targeted her with ads on gun control.

Alexander's vote indicates he feels safe. Though he initially looked vulnerable to a primary challenge, the senator roped nearly the entire Tennessee delegation into his reelection campaign.

No strong candidates have emerged yet to take on Graham, either. He’s repeatedly shown he’s not afraid to vote against conservatives, and he criticized Paul’s recent filibuster on U.S. drone policy.