The Politics Of Guns And The Influence Of Advertising

Mar 27, 2013
Originally published on March 28, 2013 9:50 am

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Another Democrat steps away from the Senate, the price of previous presidents, and the present president calls out Congress on immigration. It's Wednesday and time for a...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Political courage...

CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to review the week in politics. Tim Johnson declines to run again in South Dakota. South Carolina's First District race is neck and neck one week out from the runoff. Massachusetts Senate hopefuls debate tonight. Four of the Senate's Gang of Eight take spring break to the Mexican border. Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign gets questions from the Ethics Committee. And same-sex marriage dominates D.C.

In a few minutes, Mayor Bloomberg takes aim at key senators in the gun control debate. Later in the program, Amanda Knox, double jeopardy and extradition. But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi Neal. OK, as usual. Well, we talked about Senator Tim Johnson. He's a Democrat from South Dakota who announced he will not seek another term next year. He was re-elected in 2002 by just 524 votes. Now by the way, this trivia question will have two answers, but you can only give one answer. But there will be two winners.

CONAN: There could be two winners, so two fabulous Political Junkie T-shirts and that no-prize button.

RUDIN: And I should probably ask the question, then, right?

CONAN: Well, yeah.

RUDIN: That would help. OK, well anyway. So Tim Johnson won by 524 votes in 2002. There are two current senators who in their Senate careers were elected by even fewer votes. Name them.

CONAN: So if you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the two Senate - members of the United States Senate elected by even fewer votes than Tim Johnson's 524, give us a phone call.

RUDIN: Only one answer, though.

CONAN: One answer to a customer. There are two correct answers but only one to a customer, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And Ken, we'll start with that retirement, and it sets up another open race.

RUDIN: It does, and of course, you know, the Republicans are salivating because this is a state, South Dakota is a state - you know, of course Tim Johnson is leaving his peers. Yes, OK, so I just wanted to say that. But it's a state that Mitt Romney won by 18 points, 58 to 40 percent. But of course the Republicans had big hopes for other big, red states, Senate races.

CONAN: I've got two words for you: Heidi Heitkamp.

RUDIN: Heidi Heitkamp and, of course, Jon Tester's re-election in Montana. So it's too early to call - it's a Republican likely pickup. Certainly, the Republicans are excited about this. Tim Johnson, of course, suffered a terrible brain hemorrhage in 2006. He's left with slurred speech. He's very popular in the state, but he would have had a very tough race. Mike Rounds, the former Republican governor, has already announced he's running against - he was going to run against Tim Johnson.

And now they're talking about perhaps Kristi Noem, who's the member of the - the at-large member of Congress, 'cause they only represent the - one member of the House for the whole state. She may run. On the Democratic side, they're talking about Tim Johnson's son Brendan Johnson, who is a U.S. attorney, of course named by President Obama.

Of course, the issue of nepotism could come into play. Also Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, former member of Congress beaten by Noem in 2010, is a possible runner, as well.

CONAN: And we should note that Senator Johnson announced his departure yesterday in South Dakota, and again, we'll want to hear just a bit of what he had to say, but remember some of those speech problems from his brain problems.

SENATOR TIM JOHNSON: I will be 68 years old at the end of this term, and it is time for me to say goodbye. I will not be running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2014 or any other office.

CONAN: And he's had a long career in the Senate, but he will I think especially be remembered for that courageous fight back from that brain hemorrhage.

RUDIN: Absolutely, matter of fact the Republicans actually gave him a pass in 2008, not running anybody major against him out of respect for him and the fact that he has come a long way. He is now the fifth Democratic senator not to seek re-election in 2014, joining Carl Levin, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg and Jay Rockefeller. And there's also two Republicans, as well: Saxby Chambliss and Mike Johanns of Nebraska. So, seven senators altogether not running for another term next year.

CONAN: In the meantime, there has been one issue dominating politics in Washington this week, and that has been gay marriage. Yesterday, California's Prop. 8 up in front of the United States Supreme Court today. It's the Defense of Marriage Act. And it's interesting, a lot of legal arguments. Political arguments seem to have shifted decisively.

RUDIN: Well, we've seen that for the last couple of years. Certainly, we've seen this since last May, when Vice President Biden, followed quickly by President Obama, stopped evolving and suddenly came out for same-sex marriage or marriage equality. And you've seen more and more members of the - certain in the Democratic Party seem to be falling in view.

You talk about public opinion switching, but Democratic politicians seem to be switching very quickly. Just today, Kay Hagen, the Democratic senator who is up for re-election next year from North Carolina, announced that she supports it. Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, John Tester of Montana, all three announced I think this week that they also support it.

So there is some quick movement. When you think of the Democrats who ran for president in 2008, none of them - they all said marriage is between a man and a woman. And of course, that opinion on the Democratic side shifting very rapidly.

CONAN: And interesting because the opinion of the Obama administration is that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. So it's taking - well, the one side in the Supreme Court case, it's not going to defend it. That's left to the House Republicans to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And earlier today you hear Nina Totenberg say she couldn't find anybody willing to come out and speak publicly in favor of their position.

RUDIN: No, it's no longer a winning argument. Once upon a time, the Republicans were using same-sex marriage initiatives to get it on the ballot to perhaps help get a Republican conservative turnout. Now it's the opposite; now it seems like it would hurt the conservatives, and it would help I guess the liberals or whatever you want to call them. But the fact is it's no longer a winning argument, it seems to be.

CONAN: Let's see if we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is other than Tim Johnson's 524, the two current United States senators who won by even less, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. We'll start with Mark, Mark with us from Houston.

MARK: Hello.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air, Mark. Go ahead.

MARK: Hi, how are you guys doing?

CONAN: Good.

MARK: I just heard what you said. This was somebody from the distant past. You said current, is that right?

RUDIN: Current, yes.

MARK: Well, just my guest would have been LBJ, you know, they called Landslide Lyndon when he barely won one of his senatorial campaigns, and there was some shenanigans or some...

RUDIN: No, in Texas, Lyndon Johnson?

CONAN: In the Democratic Party?

RUDIN: 1948, and that was 87 votes, but of course he's no longer in the Senate, but yeah, that was one of the classic so-called narrow victories, although the ones we're talking about now are not under the microscope the way that one was.

MARK: OK, well, at least I gave it a shot. Thank you, guys.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Mark. Let's go to - who is this? Len, Len with us from Sand Springs in Oklahoma.

LEN: Patty Murray.

CONAN: Patty Murray, the senator from Washington.

RUDIN: No, Patty Murray, actually every time she's won, she's won pretty handily.

CONAN: Even in tennis shoes.

RUDIN: In tennis shoes, right, the little mom in tennis shoes when she was elected in 1992, but not Patty Murray.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Len. Let's go next to Cathy(ph), and Cathy on the line with us from Binghamton, New York.

CATHY: Oh, hi. Al Franken.

RUDIN: Al Franken is one of the correct answers.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Remember that recount against Norm Coleman in 2008. He wound up winning by 312 votes. So there's a T-shirt...

CONAN: That's no joke.

RUDIN: No, no, Al Franken.

CONAN: Well, stay on the line, Cathy, we'll collect your particulars, and we'll be sending you a Political Junkie T-shirt for free and of course that no-prize button in exchange for your promise of a digital image for yourself wearing said same so we can post it on our wall of shame.

RUDIN: But we're looking for one more.

CONAN: Actually, we're looking - Cathy, hang on the line. And congratulations. There's another Al Franken, by the way, that came in at the same time.

RUDIN: There's only one Al Franken.

CONAN: There's only one Al Franken. So David Scully also - this could be a three T-shirt day because we have another email answer. This is from John(ph). He says Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

RUDIN: And that is correct. Harry Reid is the other person, in 1998, against John Ensign, interesting enough. He won by 428 votes. So if anybody wants to know whether - if every votes count, you certainly can see it in these three Senate races.

CONAN: OK, so three winners today who will be getting Political Junkie T-shirts and no-prize buttons. In the meantime, Ken, there's some more news. We were talking about gay marriage. Abortion is very much in the news in North Dakota, which has just passed a series of abortion laws practically begging for federal courts to intervene.

RUDIN: Well yes, what North Dakota just did is the most restrictive abortion law in the country. They say basically six weeks after a woman's menstrual period that you cannot have an abortion after that. I guess it's the heartbeat bill, they call it the heartbeat bill.

CONAN: If a doctor detects a heartbeat, he cannot conduct the abortion.

RUDIN: Right, now, and you're absolutely right. I mean, the courts are more likely to find it unconstitutional, but it's a new tactic by the anti-abortion adherents to basically see how far they can go regarding the Roe decision.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have actual votes next week in South Carolina.

RUDIN: Yes, and that's one that Mark Sanford is seeking redemption in the Republican runoff against Curtis Bostic, who by the way was endorsed this week by Rick Santorum. There's a new public policy polling poll - try to say that one time fast - that shows while Sanford will win the Republican nomination. But Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the...

CONAN: The Democrat.

RUDIN: The general election, the sister of Stephen Colbert, 47-45, Colbert Busch over Mark Sanford in the May 7th general election.

CONAN: So that could be interesting.

RUDIN: Could be very close, yes.

CONAN: But polls are not always predictive.

RUDIN: Actually, the only polls that count are on Election Day.

CONAN: Yeah, how about that? In any case, there's interesting debate tonight in Massachusetts, where both the Republicans and the Democrats, looking for the nominations to replace John Kerry, will be in separate debates. And that race looks like it's settling out.

RUDIN: Yeah, it looks like Ed Markey will be the Democratic nominee. Of course the primary isn't until April 30th. But a new poll by WBUR has him up over a fellow Democratic congressman, Stephen Lynch, 35 to 24.

CONAN: And in the Republican side, it looks like a fellow named Sullivan.

RUDIN: Well, former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan. It's really - none of them do have statewide acclaim, they're not famous, but Sullivan looks like he'll be the Republican nominee. But you have to say that Markey is favored to keep the seat for the Democrats.

CONAN: So the Democratic primary could be tantamount to election.

RUDIN: Which is usually is in Massachusetts - until this guy named Scott Brown came along.

CONAN: It's interesting, also quickly, some ethics question for Michele Bachmann's 2012 campaign.

RUDIN: Yeah, there's some questions. It was the Office of Congressional Ethics that is looking into its 2012 presidential campaign fundraising.

CONAN: And it doesn't seem to be that this is an individual malfeasance is alleged on the candidate's part.

RUDIN: No, and she says - her office has said she's done absolutely nothing wrong, and everything will be fine the end.

CONAN: Well, stay with us, Ken. When we come back we're going to talk about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun control ad campaign; how might it play in the 13 states where he's taking target at various members of the United States Senate, 10 Republicans and five Democrats. We'll find out in just a minute. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's Wednesday, which mean Ken Rudin is back with another round of the Political Junkie. Ken, do we have a ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: We absolutely do; I'm glad you asked. Actually, the winner, by the way, Jeanine Libby(ph) of Nashville, Tennessee, the first time she ever played Scuttle, longtime listener, but first-time player.

CONAN: And what puzzle did she solve?

RUDIN: The puzzle was when Irish eyes are smiling, and there was...

CONAN: OK, for St. Patrick's Day recently.

RUDIN: That probably had something to do with it.

CONAN: Yeah. New column up?

RUDIN: Yes, about recent moves by Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul that may have something to do with 2016.

CONAN: Presage, that might presage.

RUDIN: You think?

CONAN: Yeah, OK, so if you want to see the new ScuttleButton puzzle.

RUDIN: Which is a tough one, I think.

CONAN: And Ken Rudin's column, which is - that's always a tough one, go to npr.org/junkie. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a new ad campaign in 13 states this week to try to persuade moderate members of the Senate to support gun control legislation. The $12 million worth of ads released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns promotes universal background checks as a prerequisite for gun ownership.

In one of the ads a man in a plaid shirt and a camouflage hat sits on the back of a pickup truck, holds a gun and explains his views on gun ownership.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: For me, guns are for hunting and protecting my family. I believe in the Second Amendment, and I'll fight to protect it. But with rights come responsibilities. That's why I support comprehensive background checks, so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can't buy guns. That protects my rights and my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Tell Congress: Don't protect criminals. Vote to protect gun rights and our families with comprehensive background checks. Demand action now.

CONAN: That ad is running in, among other places, Louisiana, where it may be designed to try to convince Senator Mary Landrieu to support background checks. Senator Landrieu faces a tough re-election campaign come 2014. John Maginnis, a political columnist who publishes LaPolitics, a weekly political newsletter, joins us now by phone from his office in Baton Rouge. Good to have you with us today.

JOHN MAGINNIS: Hey, Neal.

CONAN: Now, the senator has not said how she will vote on this issue. Her spokesman said she will listen closely to her constituents. I guess that's the point of the ad campaign.

MAGINNIS: True, I guess she claims she won't be listening to the mayor of New York City, although she was kind of muted, not as forceful in her pushback as some other senators were, maybe because her own brother, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, signed on to Mayor Bloomberg's campaign.

CONAN: Well, which way does this cut? Louisiana, now one of the redder states in the union, you'd assume she needs the support of a lot of Republican Second Amendment supporters, NRA supporters, to win the general election. Opposing this, though, might hurt her with her base in the Democratic Party.

MAGINNIS: Well, I think what she's really looking for is the moderate voter to whom this ad is aimed, so to speak. I think probably the real hardcore NRA members, Second Amendment supporters in this very pro-gun state, most of them are probably going to vote for a Republican against her anyway. I think she's trying to get the people, moderate Democrats, of which there are a lot, who could see the common sense in this, and also given that the bill is not, you know, banning assault weapons or creating a national registry, even though the NRA has come out against it, some of the Republican politicians in Louisiana, like Senator David Vitter and others, are not come out four-square against it. Of course they're looking to see exactly what's going to be in the bill, but some of their people can see that, you know, there might be parts of it that they could support or not oppose strenuously.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Well, let me jump in with an observation here. It just seems like that after the tragedy and the horror of Sandy Hook, it seems like everybody was talking about assault weapons ban, not everybody, not the Mary Landrieus and the Democrats in the red states, of course, but a lot of people who were upset about gun violence.

Now we're only talking about universal background checks, which seems to be a far cry of what it was. But having said that...

CONAN: Well, a lot of people say that would be much more effective in actually preventing gun violence than even an assault weapons...

RUDIN: Well, then you could make the case that the kid who got the guns in Sandy Hook got them from his mother, who had the guns legally. So I mean, we could argue this thing - oh John, are you still there?

MAGINNIS: And that hardly seemed even possible before Sandy Hook, that you would even be looking at universal background checks. That was a non-starter before. So at least if we put that issue on the table, that's, you know, that an incremental steps.

RUDIN: It just seems like, though, that, you know, it seems like Harry Reid was very willing to give Democrats like Mary Landrieu cover by not having the assault weapons ban, but whereas Michael Bloomberg doesn't seem as reticent. He seems like he's going to - look, he's going to challenge both Democrats and Republicans on the gun issue.

MAGINNIS: Well, true, but he hasn't come out for an assault weapons ban, you know, as far as these ads go. And I think that Democratic like Landrieu, the more time this takes, and it looks like it could take time, especially if we're looking at a filibuster, the more time this takes and the more distance we have between these ads and any kind of vote, I think that might bode - might make it easier for Landrieu to be able to vote for the bill.

CONAN: And it's also interesting, these are targeted at senators because if there's going to be a bill, it's going to come out of the Democratically controlled United States Senate. Then there's the question of how it might fare in the House of Representatives.

MAGINNIS: I think it'll be a - you know, faces a tougher job there.

CONAN: I think that's universally agreed, Ken. It is in part, some Republicans mutter, the president would rather have this as an issue, as a wedge issue with Republicans rather than have a bill, same thing they say on immigration.

RUDIN: Well, perhaps when you think of the urgency that seemed to happen right after Newtown, and then you had Joe Biden doing this task force that went on for a long time, and then you had Dianne Feinstein bringing the assault weapons ban bill up to the Senate that just didn't go anywhere.

And I know what John Maginnis is saying, that basically universal background checks are perhaps more than they ever could have dreamed of several months ago, it just seems like it's a far cry from what the - a lot of people were calling for after Newtown.

MAGINNIS: And yet public demand for drastic changes seems already to have fallen off, according to polling, just in the period since Sandy Hook.

RUDIN: Exactly. There was a New York Times poll that came out this week. In December, 57 percent wanted stronger gun measures. Now it's down to 47 percent. So time has seemed to have cooled that emotion.

CONAN: It's interesting, in an appearance on "Meet the Press," Mayor Bloomberg was there to argue in favor of, of course, stronger gun control legislation. And one of the things he said was that this ad campaign is designed to change the conversation, that so far the National Rifle Association, the NRA, has had things very much their own way, that they've, well, been able to say publicly and privately - if you vote against us, there will be a political price to pay.

And indeed Mayor Bloomberg was saying, hey, there's a political price to pay on the other side.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We're trying to do everything we can to impress upon the senators that this is what the survivors want, this is what the public wants, this is what the 900-plus mayors that are in our organization want; they're the ones who have to deliver safety to the streets every single day. I don't think there's ever been an issue where the public has spoken so clearly where Congress hasn't eventually understood and done the right thing.

CONAN: In an appearance on that same program, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president, said Mr. Bloomberg's millions, billions, are not enough to buy the American public.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

WAYNE LAPIERRE: He can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. They don't want him in their restaurants. They don't want him in their homes. They don't want him telling them what food to eat. They sure don't want him telling them what self-defense firearms to own, and he can't buy America.

CONAN: And John Maginnis, I wonder: Might this message - well, money is from Mr. Bloomberg. But might this message be a little bit more acceptable with another public face?

MAGINNIS: Well, I say the ad, the common, the average viewer will look at the ad and first wouldn't even know who Mayor Bloomberg is except for the, you know, the Big Gulp controversy; his fingerprints are not all over the ad, you know, the content of it. It looks like a reasonable ad for a lot of voters in the state. So I think, you know, in the ad itself, you know, Bloomberg has a low profile, and I don't think many voters yet are connecting him to what they're seeing on TV.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: John, Mary Landrieu, Senator Landrieu, also hasn't said anything about same-sex marriage. She hasn't come out as other Democrats have. Is she running scared in 2014?

MAGINNIS: Well, it seems like she runs scared every six years and manages still to win. She has to be real careful. Louisiana is a very socially conservative state with a combination of, you know, protestants and a lot of Catholics. So I would bet that she's not going to - she'll try to avoid that issue as best she can and hope even that it's settled by 2014, although I'm not sure it will be.

CONAN: John Maginnis, thanks very much for your time.

MAGINNIS: Thanks a lot.

CONAN: John Maginnis, a political columnist who publishes LaPolitics, a weekly political newsletter, with us from his office in Baton Rouge.

RUDIN: And of course La stands for Louisiana...

CONAN: Of course, as in no La. OK. Like Senator Landrieu, Senator Kay Hagen, a Democrat from North Carolina, faces an uphill re-election battle in 2014, the mayor's ads airing in her state as well. Ferrel Guillory is a professor in the practice of journalism at the University of North Carolina, with us from his office in Chapel Hill. Good of you to be with us today.

FERREL GUILLORY: Thanks for having me. It's an honor.

CONAN: And I know you've been listening to what we were talking about in Louisiana. Is that about the same situation there in North Carolina?

GUILLORY: Yeah. My - you wouldn't have known this, but John Maginnis and I were in high school together.

CONAN: Oh, my goodness.

GUILLORY: Yeah. I've known John since he was, you know, a teenager. Yeah, I would say roughly parallel. Kay Hagan is a moderate to conservative Democrat. I think the big difference between the Louisiana situation and the North Carolina situation is North Carolina has gone through much more of an economic and social change. So there's increasing metropolitanization here, population growth, this state has added two and a half million people in the last 20 years, one of the fastest growing states in the nation.

And so the issue having to do with gun violence here and what kind of controls to put on it kind of pits, you know, the older, more culturally conservative North Carolina against the more metropolitan modern North Carolina.

CONAN: You could probably say that in presidential election years, North Carolina is a true purple state.

GUILLORY: Yes.

CONAN: And 2014 is not a presidential election year.

GUILLORY: That's right. And that's one of the challenges facing Senator Hagan, is she, she won, as you know, in 2008. She outpolled President Obama, but the energy that President Obama's campaign brought to the state in 2008 helped swell the electorate, brought new people - burgeoned the electorate. 2014 is likely to have a much smaller electorate, you know, much more base level electorate. And so that clearly is a factor that she has to weigh politically.

RUDIN: And in 2012, North Carolina elected a Republican governor for the first time since the 1980s. Mitt Romney carried the state, the only swing state he carried. Both houses of the state legislature went Republican. So you don't know which South - which North Carolina will show up in 2014, whether it's a North Carolina of 2008 or the North Carolina of 2012.

GUILLORY: Right. And let's be clear about some of these things. One is, is President Obama won the state in 2008 by 14,000 votes. Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by 90,000 votes. And that's out of, you know, more than four million cast. So this is a very narrowly divided state. The legislative victory and the congressional district changeover has to do with the bump that Republicans got in 2010 in the midterm election plus redistricting that maximized the number of Republican districts.

CONAN: We're talking with Ferrel Guillory, the director of the Program on Public Life at the Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina. He's with us from his office in Chapel Hill. Of course Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And as we look at this situation, we've had Senator Hagan say she has now come out in favor of same-sex marriage, as Ken reported earlier.

She has said she will likely vote for universal background checks but needs to look at, of course, the actual language of any bill, would not likely support any assault weapons ban. It doesn't look like she's going to be asked to. But is this an element of her being held to account with her own base? There's a progressive element of the Democratic Party that's going to insist that she support these things.

GUILLORY: Right. And that's - that was my point earlier, is to how much does she look toward the old cultural conservative sentiment in North Carolina, how much the more modern North Carolina. Public Policy Polling, which is a Democratic Party-aligned poll, has the state as usual on these kind of issues narrowly divided. On the assault weapons ban, its latest poll had 50 percent in favor, and 41 percent opposed, which, you know, many issues come out in that kind of 50-40 range in the state and that - and, of course, those data come before the Bloomberg ads are aired and before much of the National Rifle Association pushback has arrived.

So this is, you know, in many ways a swing state, a swing state on a lot of issues that it's narrowly divided between Democrats and Republicans. There's a large segment of independent unaffiliated voters who mostly vote Democratic and Republican but are - but many of them are persuadable. So this is a state in which a lot of issues come down to a choice between options that divide people.

CONAN: And it's interesting, these ads and - and as you suggest, the pushback, all timed for the congressional break, the Easter break. And so this is when the senators and congressmen are back in their home districts and presumably getting the brunt of whatever pressure these ads and this pushback may deliver. Ferrel Guillory, thank you very much for your time.

GUILLORY: OK. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

CONAN: Ferrel Guillory, professor of the practice of journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And Ken, those are just two states where this is playing out. Interesting to look at the state of Iowa, another of the 13 states.

RUDIN: Yeah. And exactly - I mean they're not - he's not targeting (unintelligible) because Tom - I mean they may be targeting Chuck Grassley, who's not up in 2014, but the Tom Harkin Senate seat is. So you have this money coming in to the state, and that's going to be a state - a seat - a Senate race that everybody is watching. You have a very strong conservative, Steve King, on the Republican side who looks like he wants it, and another congressman, Bruce Braley, on the Democratic side. The Republicans really, really want that seat, but right now it's trending Democratic.

CONAN: And it also remains to be seen whether votes now on either side will cost people politically come election day. And as Mayor Bloomberg said, so far all the threats of politics have been from one side. He wants to make some threats on the other side.

RUDIN: Well, absolutely. Just go back to North Carolina. Last May, the vote - they voted 61-39 to ban same-sex marriage. And here we have Kay Hagan announcing today that she's in favor of it. So there are calculations, there are risks for politicians in both parties.

CONAN: Ken Rudin will be back with us next week with another edition of the Political Junkie. Ken, as always, thanks very much.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Our Political Junkie segment producer is Laura Lee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.