Gun-play in Campaign Ads: ‘Give Me a Shot’

Guns on the street are one thing.

Guns are firing in campaign ads, too.

Not since Joe Manchin loaded his hunting rifle and unloaded it on a target for the voters of West Virginia has a candidate for the U.S. Senate given firearms such a prominent role in a campaign ad.

Joni Ernst, an Iraq war veteran and front-runner in a crowded field for the Republican Senate nomination in Iowa, pledges to “ take aim at wasteful spending.” What’s more, says the narrator of the ad picturing Ernst at a firing range and then turning her handgun on the camera: “Once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s gonna unload.”

“Give me a shot,” Ernst says to viewers in closing.

She has some competition on this front in Iowa, where Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement has offered a rare opening for Iowans.

Bob Quast, an independent candidate for the Senate, is campaigning with a web video-warning to anyone who comes to his front door with the intention of harming “my girls.” He hoists his handgun wth a 15-shot clip: “I’m gonna use my Glock to blow your balls off.”

Ernst, the “mom, farm-girl and lieutenant colonel who carries more than just lipstick in her purse,” isn’t the first to “unload” on the president’s health-care law in the midterm election campaigns underway.

Will Brooke, a businessman running for Congress in Alabama, placed the actual text of the Affordable Care Act in the sights of first a Glock, then a hunting rifle and finally an assault weapon. The bill is so thick, it turns out, that his ammo couldn’t penetrate it.

He finally loaded the bill into a wood-chipper.

Connecting with the Second Amendment crowd and Obamacare opponents in one shot may seem an easy trick. Especially for these Republican candidates.

Courting gun-owners in general is somewhat tougher for Democrats. In Kentucky, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes hauled out a rifle for a Twitter challenge to the incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the Senate: “Come shoot with me at the range any day.”

It was Manchin, the former Democratic governor of West Virginia running for the Senate, who vowed to protect voters’ Second Amendment rights and “repeal the bad parts of Obamacare.” In the state known for its coal mines, he unloaded his gun on the “Cap and Trade” energy bill.

Manchin also has walked a not-so-fine line between his NRA endorsement, touted in his ads, and his advocacy for gun safety — he was one of the bipartisan sponsors of a bill improving background checks for gun-buyers in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, schoolhouse shootings.

He cradled that hunting rifle in another ad promoting his “courage” for standing up to the gun lobby while defending gun-owners’ rights.

The bill died.

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