WASHINGTON — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his team running his antigun SuperPAC drove Robin Kelly to victory — and demolished chief rival Debbie Halvorson–in a $2.2 million campaign they said Wednesday was merely a taste of what they have in store for the National Rifle Association.
“Is it a harbinger of things to come? I think so. This is the public speaking,” Bloomberg said outside the White House when I asked him about Kelly’s win Tuesday in the Democratic primary the seat vacated by disgraced Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
“The one who won, who I have never met, never talked to, she has been stand-up on understanding the problem,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to map strategy to prod Congress to pass measures to curb gun violence. He also met with four senators, including Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who is a lead on a gun trafficking bill.
Earlier in the day, the top two strategists for Bloomberg’s Independence USA SuperPAC — Bill Knapp and pollster Doug Schoen — dissected Kelly’s win, charting how Kelly’s ratings rose and Halvorson’s sank after massive buys for four television ads and nine direct mail pieces targeting Democratic primary voters in the South Side and south suburban 2nd Congressional District.
Three polls guided their work, with the result Tuesday night, Kelly 52 percent to 24 percent for Halvorson. Spending was about $2,237,486.
If you wonder why consultants use negative attacks, it is because they work: Two of the spots and seven direct mail pieces were hits against Halvorson.
Bloomberg’s SuperPAC, with the Illinois win, now has a case study for other elected officials to ponder. The Illinois contest was “the first time that the issue of gun safety has been fought as a central election issue,” Schoen said.
Indeed, unlike most congressional races, it became the only issue, one Kelly seized on early.
The takeaways: For wobbly incumbents who want to vote for gun-violence curbs, Bloomberg’s SuperPAC has their backs if the NRA comes after them; for contenders like Kelly who have clear, loud messages regarding guns, there is a SuperPAC ready to swoop in, and for incumbents or former elected officials like Halvorson who have been in with the NRA — well, watch out.
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. Given the district, Halvorson would not have been a reliable NRA vote and their PAC overseers could see that while she was against an assault weapon ban, she was for universal background checks, Kirk’s gun trafficking bill and limiting the number of bullets in a magazine.
The NRA did not put any money in the race.
Said Bloomberg, “They are probably sorry they didn’t.”
FOOTNOTE: Bloomberg said he did not consult with Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the intervention of his SuperPac in the race. Emanuel did not take a role in the primary.