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updated 6/19/2013 6:18:19 AM ET 2013-06-19T10:18:19

Can Michael Bloomberg pressure Democrats to back gun reform?

Can New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg bully pro-gun Democrats into changing their votes on a background check bill?

Bloomberg has poured millions of dollars into an ad campaign designed to pressure legislators who voted against universal background checks for guns, but will it actually “put the fear of god” in senators like Mark Pryor? Or will it turn out that this plan is “more sloppy in practice than in theory,” as CapitalNewYork.com’s Josh Benson put it?

Watch Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy, The Nation‘s Rick Perlstein and George Zornick,and Benson talk with Steve Kornacki about whether the mayor’s strategy has real potential to force changes.

Video: Bloomberg’s new anti-gun tactic

  1. Closed captioning of: Bloomberg’s new anti-gun tactic

    >>> so, the reason chuck schumer and other top democrats in washington are, you know, apprehensi apprehensive, to say the least, about what bloomberg is doing is their senate majority is really at risk in 2014 and really dependent in 2014 on a lot of, you know, less blue states , more red states . someone like pryor in arkansas. schumer basically said public this week he wishes mike bloomberg would think about this in term if you have a democratic senate you're more likely to get gun legislation than if you have a republican senate . i wonder what someone like mike bloomberg thinks when he hears a message like that, josh.

    >> they're both saying things that are true. two guys talk regularly and playing their assigned roles. chuck schumer , good for the country, necessary for the country, including to achieve the political goals he set out to achieve, like gun control , background checks in particular. but the thing about mike bloomberg is if anyone can play a lawn game , that's him. if anyone can brush off concerns expressed by schumer is him because he'll probably never run for anything again and he has a zillion dollars. so, what schumer and the democrats are saying is quite correct. the bloombergism on gun control in practice is a lot more sloppy than in theory. if they get a scalp with pryor, that will set the cause back, for sure and set it back for a while, and that applies generally to anything that causes republicans to be closer to taking over majority in the senate . but what a lobby is supposed to number bloomberg 's mind -- bloomberg , by the way, doesn't believe in political parties and extrapolates what he beliefs as useless parties to the national political landscape, if that's the idea that you've got to be consistent on the issue and punish people wherever you k can, he's going to do that. one other way -- i'll shut up in a second. one other way i think it's going to be more complicated to use your word before over the long term is that you could argue bloomberg and his group is always going to be in a position to put more pressure on democrats than republicans . and so the idea -- what they've said is, this cycle there happen to be a lot of vulnerable democrats . the four that they've chosen are not -- let's not count baucus, but the ones they've chosen is the organic function of that's where the money is and that's who's vulnerable. clearly they'll be in a position to move the democratic constituencies more than republican constituencies forever.

    >> that's other thing, george, the republicans -- part of this is sessentially republicans got past this because it didn't get to the floor of the house and you didn't get hundreds of republicans to vote on this.

    >> i think that's true, but i think if -- bloomberg is playing -- the mantra in d.c. is it's about the first vote, it's about the last vote. what happens when you keep pushing like this? i think one bloomberg may say here, while he is playing the lawn game , is that he's not really trying to defeat mark pryor . he's not really trying to defeat theme democrats . he's trying to put the fear of god in them. have you a year and a half before midterm, get something to change their position, nine out of ten constituents back, it gets to the house and we see what happens with the republicans . boehner lets it pass with democratic votes or it fails and you hammer republicans that vote against it. that's the strategy here.

    >> there was something under the radar in nevada , the republican governor vetoed a bill that made it through legislature this year, background checks in nevada . and bloomberg 's group was heavily involved in the campaign to get this enacted. you could say it was sort of a success for them they got this through to legislature and maybe this gives them a new target, for the upcoming election with sandoval running for re-election in nevada but this is also -- you know, in the end, they ran the same thing at the state level in a pro-gun state they ran in the senate in nevada .

    >> it's really important to understand that republican voters and republican politicians are not necessarily persuadable on this issue by these kind of arguments we've been seeing, heart-rendering cards these folks have been sending to their congressmen and senators about how awful it is to lose a father. don't work the same way because this is an issue in which the mindset is completely different. a liberal looks at a card like this and says, isn't it awful these school shootings that keep on happening. let's bring those to the forefront because that helps us and makes people want more gun control . but if you think like a conservative and you think in terms of good people and evil people , the predominance of the evil people makes you want less gun control , more guns. if the bad guys have a machine gun --

    >> the good guy with the gun verse the bad guy with the gun --

    >> it's very important for liberals to understand this. i hear it all the time, is it going to take ten more school shootings , 100, 1,000 more school shootings before people realize how dangerous guns are? no. the more school --

    >> if that won't do it, what will?

    >> mobilizing democrats .

    >> yeah, it has to be a party line --

    >> i guess it is mobilizing people who believe in gun control . i mean, and maybe goes back into the conversation we had earlier in the show today about, you know, building the party, building demographics, going out, mobilizing voters, getting people who are eligible to vote but are not voting or not registered to vote to do so. something has to give. this is an enormous problem on gun control , on immigration, on every single issue we're dealing with. congress is at a standstill. it's ludicrous to hear an argument -- mayor bloomberg , please don't do this because we're better off with a democratic majority in the senate but the democratic majority didn't do anything either so you're basically saying, let's stand for status quo.

    >> if anything on guns happens before the election, it's going to have to involve some of these red state democrats who voted no and involve some republicans in the senate . we'll talk about what it would take, what it might take, what it could possibly take to get those people on board to get this into senate , into law before the next elections. [old english

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