Taking a clear anti-gun stand, the New York Times sent a platoon of reporters worldwide to cover the anti-gun March for Our Lives for Sunday’s lead slot. On Monday, the paper pivoted to the November elections, with Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin pressuring Republicans on the front page: “Gun Protests Leave Republicans Scrambling as Midterms Loom.”
The passionate gun control rallies Saturday that brought out large crowds around the country sent a vivid signal that the issue is likely to play a major role in the 2018 midterm elections, and that Republicans could find themselves largely on the defensive on gun issues for the first time in decades.
The gun debate could play out very differently in House and Senate races, as Republicans strain to save suburban congressional districts where gun control is popular, and Democrats defend Senate seats in red states where the Second Amendment is sacrosanct.
But, in a year of extraordinary political intensity, and in the first national election of the Trump presidency, Republican and Democratic leaders say the gun issue appears to have become a potent rallying point for voters opposed to Mr. Trump and fed up with what they see as Washington’s indifference to mass shootings. The scale of demonstrations over the weekend was reminiscent of the Women’s March, earlier in Mr. Trump’s presidency, and underscored the intense energy of activists on the left ahead of the fall campaign.
Gun control is the latest issue that the Times hopes will put the Democrats over the top, joining amnesty for immigrants, abortion, and gay rights.
The commitment of the young march organizers to keep the issue front and center makes it unlikely to fade before November. But they are certain to face considerable resistance from pro-gun forces, particularly the National Rifle Association, which has formidable financial resources at its disposal and a long record of successfully mobilizing conservatives and helping win elections.
Still, Republicans have already been struggling to keep their footing in densely populated suburbs where Mr. Trump is unpopular and the N.R.A. is an object of widespread scorn. The gun issue appears likely to deepen Republicans’ problems in these areas, further cleaving moderate, pocketbook-minded suburban voters from the party’s more hard-line rural base and raising the risks for Republicans in swing House districts around the country.
Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, warned in a CNN interview on Sunday that voters “do want changes” on gun policy and Republicans were ignoring them at their peril.
It is not only the Republican Party’s dwindling moderate wing that sees danger in the gun issue. Dan Eberhart, an energy executive and major conservative donor, said Republicans risked driving away suburban voters if they did not do more to defy the N.R.A.
The Times has marked the “dwindling” away of Republican moderates for 22 years, since 1996; it’s a miracle that any are still around!
Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster, said the marches illustrated the enormous energy of the Democratic base and revealed generational changes in the electorate that Republicans will have to grapple with.