Miss Led: AP writer dismisses gun owner significance in gubernatorial campaign

By Ken Hanson

In her recent article 'God, Guns, Gays may be a stretch for average voter', the Associated Press' Julie Carr “I don’t like guns or objective reporting” Smyth sets out to prove the case that our Gubernatorial candidates in Ohio are pandering needlessly to gun nuts and Bible thumpers. If the author’s name sounds familiar, it is because until recently she was polluting the pages of the Cleveland Plain Dealer with her hatchet jobs on gun owners.

In this article, her train of thought appears to derail shortly after the title as she unleashes a barrage of non sequiturs on her hapless readers. Please take a moment to refresh yourself with the title of the article. Sit back and enjoy the ride as we follow Ms. Smyth’s logic.

Smyth first complains that the candidates are trying to one-up each other with scriptural references, clearly pandering to the religious even though “only half of Ohioans belong to a church.” In case you missed it, the foundation of her article has been abandoned in the first paragraph.

The premise of the story is that candidates are pandering to VOTERS, not Ohioans. So what, if anything, does the percentage of Ohioans belonging to a church have to do with anything? Shouldn’t Ms. Smyth be talking about what percentage of VOTERS belong to a church?

Smyth next directs her scorn on a favorite target: gun rights. Jumping to the absurd conclusion that only people who have a license from the state own a gun or care about gun issues, she complains that the candidates are in battling for gun votes while “only” 400,000 out of 11 million Ohioans have a hunting license or a CHL. Oops she did it again, even worse this time, because, as we will see later, 4 million of that 11 million aren’t even eligible to vote, either by age or lack of registering. Ms. Smyth is comparing apples to basketballs. Here is a hint, Ms. Smyth: The candidates don’t care about the 11 million Ohioans, they only care about the ones who vote.

Smyth also manages to get not just one but two quotes from Toby Hoover into her story. Ms. Hoover, who has been pounded into irrelevance by the reality of successful shall-issue concealed carry in Ohio, has apparently branched out into other social engineering fields as she provides commentary on same-sex marriage.

The really enjoyable part of the story is when Ms. Hoover laments the fact that candidates play to a voter’s fears to try and gain that vote. This is clearly an area within Ms. Hoover’s expertise. I am overwhelmed with possible responses, so I will simply ask the reader to conjur an image of Toby testifying in 2003 about the blood soon to be running in our streets while holding a faux AR-15.

Finally, Smyth points out the candidates are trying to out-hetero each other on issues like same-sex marriage, despite the fact that only 1 percent of Ohioans (oops, did it again, can’t help herself) report GLBT lifestyles. Given that Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act passed with 62% of the vote (as in 62% of voters who voted, not 62% of Ohioans, as Ms. Smyth wants to talk about) in a strong turnout year, and Ohio was the 38th state at the time (seems we are last in everything, always) to pass DOMA, it seems that any first year political science student might take that as evidence that the voters don’t stack up the way Ms. Smyth's article would have us believe.

The intellectual bankruptcy of this article is rooted in her premise: You cannot measure the importance of a block of votes by counting noses and comparing that to the state as a whole. There simply is no way to measure passion in a voter nor determine how many people have that passion. Voter passion is a force multiplier that cannot be accurately calculated. That is why the candidates court this type of voting. The average gun owner is honestly not likely to have a government license dealing with shooting sports. Despite the best efforts of our advocacy groups, that is an unfortunate reality.

However, that does not mean that the non-licensed gun owner is not a gun issue voter, and does not mean that they are someone without passion. Additionally, the people that are involved in shooting sports tend to take friends and family shooting with them, and will often talk gun issues in every day conversation. So, in a situation where the issue voter might not even have a government license of some kind, that one person is acting as a force multiplier in the field, and might easily swing 10 votes.

The voter with passion is the one who will phone bank, put up yard signs, drop literature, call representatives and show up on election day to pull the lever. Each of these types of voters is worth more to the candidate than a single vote on election day.

2002 is Ohio’s last midterm election, and in that election, out of 7.1 million registered voters, 3.35 million, or 47%, bothered to drag themselves to the polls. Also keep in mind that Ohio’s over age 18 (voter) population is somewhere just short of 9,000,000 per census projections, so nearly 2,000,000 don’t even bother to register to vote. So if you examine voter turnout as a percentage of the eligible adult population, in 2002 37% turned out. To get a majority of votes cast in this mid-term election, a candidate need roughly 1.7 million votes, so to win in 2002, roughly 19% of the adult population in Ohio had to pull the lever for you.

If the past is any predictor of the future, the candidates are really fighting for the 1 out of every 3 adults who actually vote in a midterm election. All of a sudden that 400,000 number sounds a lot more significant, especially if there is a higher tendency to discover a voter with passion within that group. The same analysis would apply with the church members casually disregarded in the earlier part of the story.

Ms. Hoover and Ms. Smyth demonstrate their deep denial when they keep referring to the average voter agreeing with their views on social issues. It is simply amazing to me that these two seem to honestly believe that a small, vocal minority call the shots with candidates. If they accurately described voter sentiment in Ohio, H.B. 347 would not have the stong bipartisan support it enjoys, and candidates would not be squandering precious campaign time and money courting the gun vote. Further, if Ms. Smyth and Ms. Hoover are correct in their assertion that this is a wedge issue, then it should be equally true that Ms. Hoover has a similar number of motivated, passioned anti-gun voters for candidates to pander to. That obviously is not the case.

Ladies, your average voter owns a gun and sees no problem with other people owning and carrying guns. The pool of actual voters is quite small when compared to the state as a whole, which is why Ms. Smyth made her comparisons to the state population rather than voting population. It is the only way she could seek to minimize the importance of the gun vote. Candidates are seeking votes from a small pool of actual voters, and in that pool, gun owners tend to be great swimmers.

Don’t blame candidates for acknowledging Ohio's electoral reality and tailoring their campaign to it.

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