While some lawmakers have faced the wrath of constituents at town halls during this Congressional recess, John McCain enjoyed a much more pleasant homecoming Thursday.
Pam Simon, a former staffer for Gabby Giffords who was shot during Jared Loughner’s 2011 attack, thanked the Arizona senator for his vote in favor of expanded background checks.
McCain was one of four Republicans who sided with the majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, which ultimately failed, last month.
There was “loud, sustained applause” after Simon stood up to thank McCain, according to Slate’s Dave Weigel who attended the Oro Valley town hall. Afterward, Simon joined with survivors of the 2011 shooting to give McCain roses and thank him again.
After the event ended, before reporters grabbed the senator, Simon and other survivors of the 2011 shooting walked up to the senator to hand him 19 roses. “Thirteen for the people who were injured, six for the people who died,” said Mary Reed, another survivor, who was shot three times and still had a bullet in her back pressed against her sciatic nerve.
Arizona’s other Republican Senator, Jeff Flake, has been labelled the least popular senator in the country after his vote against the gun bill, taking the title from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The news prompted Flake to joke this puts him “just below pond scum.”
Meanwhile, when asked which senator they trusted when it came to gun issues, Arizonans picked McCain over Flake by a 21-point margin. Perhaps that’s why one of Thursday’s town hall attendees asked McCain to “work on” Flake’s vote.
McCain’s reception contrasts sharply with how his colleague Kelly Ayotte was received when she returned to New Hampshire this week. Ayotte, who voted against background checks, was confronted by the daughter of a Newtown shooting victim, who asked her to explain “why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t as important as” asking gun shop owners to do a little more work.
These anecdotes from town halls appear to reflect the broader American response to the failed gun vote, even in gun-friendly conservative-leaning states. A PPP poll released Thursday found that Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina have improved their reelection chances by supporting background checks. In Louisiana, 45% of voters indicated they’re now more likely to support Landrieu for reelection because she voted for background checks, and only 25% saying the vote made them less likely to vote for her. In North Carolina, Hagan gets an even bigger boost, with 52% of voters saying they’re more inclined to vote for Hagan next year because of her vote, and only 26% saying the opposite.
Some Democrats who opposed the measure have seen the opposite effect, with 39% of Alaskans saying they’re less likely to vote for Mark Begich in 2014, and only 22% saying they’re more likely to vote for him now.