Politics
President Barack Obama shooting a clay target at Camp David. The White House/Getty Images. President Barack Obama shooting a clay target at Camp David. The White House/Getty Images.  

BEDFORD: How Obama and his PAC lost on gun control

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Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign put the fear of Tech into the GOP. At nearly every turn, the president’s campaign seemed one step ahead of its opponents, defining them before they had a chance to define themselves, and managing to rebrand an embattled president Americans had lived under for four years.

After the election, his campaign was reformed into Organizing for Action (OFA) — a perpetual campaign,

established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012. OFA will advocate for these policies throughout the country and will mobilize citizens of all parties and diverse points to speak out for speedy passage and effective implementation of this program, including gun control, sensible environmental policies to address climate change and immigration reform.

What stands out here? Post-election, the notoriously on-message and successful OFA hammered down on the wrong message and lost. Despite raising nearly $5 million in its first quarter and launching two pro-gun-control campaigns, and despite consistently touting polls showing 90 percent of Americans supporting background checks, there was  no “speedy passage and effective implementation of… gun control.” Even with bipartisan support, it didn’t get the necessary two-thirds vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Meanwhile, immigration reform may face the same fate, and climate change is unlikely to relieve the blue team’s blues.

“The Organizing for America arm of the Obama machine has proven to be a paper tiger in its first major test,” one senior Senate staffer — who requested anonymity so he could speak frankly — told The Daily Caller. “Pro-Second Amendment groups were far more effective in pressuring members to vote against President Obama’s signature gun control item.”

But the president’s problem wasn’t simply tactical. There was also a messaging issue. What, exactly, were the Democrats proposing? And who could explain it?

“The administration never answered the question of how their [gun-control] proposal would have reduced crime or stopped the next massacre from happening, and people want to know that if you’re going to limit their rights, that there is some public safety benefit for it,” Brian Phillips, the communications director for conservative Sen. Mike Lee told TheDC. “The administration never connected the dots, and that’s why ultimately people opposed more gun control.”

So what was OFA — the men and women who so brilliantly connected the dots during the campaign, sharpening the president’s message into a pointed spear — doing during this debacle? They were employing the same tactics as they did during their get-out-the-vote campaign (albeit with less money and staff than during the election). They failed, however, and there are at least three major reasons why their efforts didn’t work in the non-election environment.