Americans for Responsible Solutions, the anti-gun super PAC backed by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is planning ahead for the 2016 presidential primaries after spending $10.6 million in the midterms, but winning fewer than half the contests it backed.
The problem, reports Politico,
is that gun control wasn't a major issue in the midterm elections, and Republicans and the National Rifle Association-led pro-gun lobby pose a huge threat to the PAC's efforts.
ARS, as the PAC is know, says it already has built up a voter file, including in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and has invested a $250,000 on data and analytics this year.
"Our hope is that the major parties’ nominees are good, if you will, if not perfect [and] that some of the work we’ve done is helpful in paving a way for these candidates to talk about these issues," ARS senior adviser Pia Carusone told Politico.
Giffords launched the super PAC in 2013 after a gunman shot her in the head and injured others while she was making an appearance in her former Arizona home district.
ARS supports both Republicans and Democrats, picking two GOP candidates and 16 Democrats this election cycle.
And even though it supports measures as more stringent background checks, it doesn't advocate gun bans altogether and points out that Giffords herself is a gun owner
The ARS spent a great deal of money in Senate races in North Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire, but only its New Hampshire candidate won. It supports Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is in a runoff race to be decided next month.
Its candidates did win governors' races in Colorado and Connecticut, both locations hit hard by mass shootings.
However, in Gifford's own former Arizona 2nd district post, where the ARS made its highest investment, at $2.3 million, the super PAC's candidate may lose his seat.
Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, a former staff worker of Giffords who was also wounded in the 2011 shooting incident, is facing a recount in his race against GOP challenger Martha McSally.
Giffords' group has hired Michael Simon, who played a central role in the analytics division of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Simon told Politico that ARS doesn't just want their candidates to win, but to win through their efforts for tighter gun control laws.
"If you say, 'Yeah, you can be good on our issue, but you don’t have to talk about it in an election,' then you’ll never create an ecosystem, never create a counterweight" to organizations such as the NRA, which spent more than $30 million on this year's midterm elections.
The group also plans to be involved in the congressional races in 2016, but Carusone said it's still too early to say if it will take part in Senate primaries.
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, are all up for re-election, and all three supported a failed Senate bill to expand gun background checks. They could face GOP challengers in the 2016 primaries.
The ARS this election cycle spent $272,000 backing another Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who also had supported the background checks bill. Collins won her re-election bid.
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