Politico has an interesting story out Thursday about Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., headlined, “NRA Ally Pat Toomey Pivots on Gun Control Efforts” in the print edition and “NRA Ally Pat Toomey’s Gun Control Moment” online.
The story details how the senator, who is up for re-election in 2016, is co-sponsoring compromise gun control legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. He is trying to ensure that he has a moderate image in his purplish battleground state.
The story notes:
Toomey’s alliance with Manchin this week is just the latest example of his willingness to work with Democrats. Observers pointed to his role on the supercommittee, as well as his tendency to back Obama’s judicial and Cabinet nominees.
“Toomey has, I think, gotten some credit, … but not enough for his willingness to cross the aisle and compromise,” said longtime Franklin & Marshall College pollster G. Terry Madonna. “He has reached across the aisle on other occasions with [New York Sen. Chuck] Schumer, with Casey, … and I think overall, he’s shown a willingness to … compromise where he can without compromising his core principles.”
Ultimately, Toomey’s move on background checks isn’t particularly risky politically. While opinions on other gun control measures are mixed in the state, support for universal background checks is nearly unanimous. A Franklin & Marshall poll in February found that 94 percent of Pennsylvania voters favored requiring background checks for all gun sales.
The Toomey-Manchin compromise would require background checks at gun shows and for online sales but will exempt personal transfers from background checks.
What’s noteworthy about this is that Toomey isn’t just any Republican. He is the former president of the Club for Growth, a conservative group dedicated to weeding out the GOP’s weak-kneed moderates — called Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) by activists — by bankrolling primary challenges to them. The group’s philosophy is that the underlying problem with the GOP is that too many of it’s members worry about re-election first rather than standing on conservative principle.
And now its former president, in an attempt to position himself for re-election, is finding that, yes, there is indeed wiggle room around these conservative principles. This is despite the fact that his election is three years off.
Asked about what conservatives back home will think of his moderation, Toomey said: “There will be some who disagree — people have a right to express that.”
Granted, the Club for Growth’s main issue issues are tax cuts and small government generally. So Toomey’s gun control stance isn’t going to affect its scorecards for him.
Still, it is amusing to see the club’s former head discover that things are a little different when it is you who has to appeal to broad, diverse state and that just being staunchly conservative isn’t enough.