As Democrat Presidential forerunner Hilary Clinton slips behind polls in Iowa against fellow Democratic Socialist candidate Sen Bernie Sanders, the Clinton camp has launched an attack on her rival on one issue that has been fiercely discussed of late – gun control.
During Barack Obama’s final State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton released an ad, titled I’m with Him, in which she aligned herself with the president on gun control.
“It’s time to pick a side,” the Democratic candidate said in the ad, which aired on Wednesday in Iowa and New Hampshire, states which will vote next month in the first caucuses and primaries of 2016. “Either we stand with the gun lobby or we join the president and stand up to them. I’m with him.”
While Clinton still maintains a lead over Sanders in national polls, the once overwhelming favourite for the nomination is now running in a primary race that is becoming tighter.
As Clinton spoke in Ames, a Quinnipiac University survey released on Tuesday showed Sanders taking the lead over the former secretary of state for the first time in Iowa, with 49% of Democratic caucus-goers in the state supporting him and 44% supporting Clinton.
A separate survey, from Monmouth University, also released on Tuesday, showed Sanders holding a double-digit lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, by a margin of 53% to 39%.
A New York Times/CBS poll released on Tuesday showed Clinton’s lead over Sanders nationally tightening to 48%-41%. A month ago, Clinton was 20 points ahead of him.
As the dynamics of the race for the Democratic nomination shift in the final weeks before voting begins, Sanders finds himself under increased pressure to answer for his decisions for this vote, and to make a stronger stance on gun control.
For weeks now, the Clinton Camp have hammered Sanders over a 2005 vote for a bill that broadly shields gun manufacturers and dealers from legal liability in cases “resulting from criminal or unlawful misuse” of their products by a third party. Though the law does not grant blanket immunity, it does grant manufacturers and dealers unique protections that most other consumer goods manufacturers do not have.
In response to Hilary Clinton’s campaign ad, Sanders had this to say: Secretary Clinton, obviously now, feels herself in trouble. We started this campaign at 2% in the polls; some polls now have us winning in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s fine that she wants to pick on this issue, but, as I’ve said several months ago, we are going to work on changing that legislation.
He specifically rejected the notion raised in Clinton’s new ad, telling MSNBC after Obama’s speech: “I stand with the president on gun issues. The idea of expanding instant background checks, the idea of making sure that people who have criminal backgrounds or [who aren’t] mentally stable should not have a gun is something I have believed in my whole life.”
During the Iowa Black and Brown Forum, an event focusing mainly on minority issues, on Monday, Sanders was asked whether the vote was a “mistake”.
“No,” he replied. “Like many pieces of legislation, like many of the 10,000 votes that I cast, bills are complicated.”
Trying to square that with his promise to revisit the law, Sanders explained that he supports making large gun manufacturing companies liable but has qualms about completely removing those protections for local dealers.
“If you are a gun manufacturer who is selling guns into an area,” Sanders said at the forum, “and you’re selling a whole lot of guns and you have reason to believe that a lot of those guns are not meant for people in that area, but are being distributed to criminal elements, should you be prosecuted? Damn right.”
Clinton and her campaign decided to place gun control – one of the few issues where she can position herself to the left of Sanders – at the center of her presidential campaign months ago in the hope that taking a strong stand on the topic would pay off in both the primary race and the general election.
Months ago, Clinton added a passage on gun control to her stump speech. She has called for moderate gun owners and gun control advocates to join together in a “national movement” to take on the NRA, and proposed a slate of gun control proposals.
She has also taken pains to align herself with the president, who recently announced a series of executive orders aimed at preventing gun violence. In doing so, she has also sought to distinguish her record from that of Sanders, hoping to paint him as out of step with the president, a still wildly popular figure among key Democratic voters.
Yet this is a sharp reversal from the 2008 presidential campaign, when Clinton attacked Obama – her then rival for the Democratic nomination – for his gun control platform, even sending out mailing cards that accused him of being inconsistent on guns and highlighting his controversial remarks that people in small-town Pennsylvania “cling to guns” in response to economic decline.
Summarised from: The Hill/The Guardian