Kelly Ayotte just learned who she works for, and it's not the NRA. According to recent polls, Ayotte's approval rating has tumbled following her vote against the Manchin-Toomey bill for near-universal background checks. Rightly so.
Ayotte's plunge underscores the changing politics around gun control and gun safety. In years past, lawmakers worried that a vote for gun control would bring the anger of the National Rifle Association. In the new reality, votes against gun control also carry a political risk, as the Ayotte poll indicates.
A full three-quarters of New Hampshire voters support such background checks, along with 56 percent of Republicans, according to Public Policy Polling. A WMUR Granite State Poll taken in January and February found that more than 9 in 10 state residents supported implementing background checks at gun shows.
It's not entirely clear yet how opposition to background checks will play out at the polls, but there are signs Ayotte’s vote may have taken a toll.
In October, the last time that PPP surveyed voters about Ayotte, she had a 48-35 approval rating. She has now tumbled underwater, with 46 percent disapproving and 44 percent approving. The 11-point surge in disapproval threatens Ayotte's 2016 reelection, when she could face popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte won her 2010 race by 23 points, but in a hypothetical matchup against Hassan trails 46-44.
Forty-five percent of independents in the state disapproved of Ayotte, up 13 points since October. Half of voters said her vote on background checks made them less inclined to vote for her, with only a quarter saying it made them more likely to support her.
Ayotte threw her lot in with the wrong people. Instead of representing her constituents, she chose the NRA, and her chickens will come home to roost. This is exactly what the president called for when he said the voters will have to be the ones to decide this issue. They will, and Ayotte won't be the only casualty.
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