New Hampshire turned into a battleground state for gun control as soon as Sen. Kelly Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey agreement that would have expanded background checks.
The only thing missing? A race. Ayotte isn't up for re-election until 2016. She was elected to office in November, 2010.
In the weeks since her vote, Ayotte's approval ratings plummeted according to one poll. The daughter of a Newtown victim made a high-profile appearance at one of Ayotte's town halls, demanding to know why gun rights were more important than her mother's life.
The senator has also been the target two different attack ads protesting her vote.
“Eighty-nine percent of New Hampshire supports background checks, but Sen. Ayotte voted against them. Why didn’t she listen to us in New Hampshire?” one attack ad, paid for by Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, asked. “New Hampshire voters will remember this.”
Now, conservatives are rushing to defend the senator with ads of their own.
An ad (below) released Friday by the American Future Fund praised Ayotte for her “courage and independence to stand up and do what’s right for New Hampshire.”
The ad buy cost $250,000, but may grow in size, according to Politico.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) thanked Sen. Ayotte with $25,000 of an ad of their own (below). The ad urges New Hampshire voters not to listen to the other ads.
Ayotte spoke out, too, writing an op-ed to “set the record straight.”
“I support effective background checks and in fact voted recently to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS),” Ayotte wrote.
The senator voted in favor of the pro-gun rights amendment authored by Republicans Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Texas' Ted Cruz. The Grassley-Cruz amendment did not expand background checks to online and gun show sales. It instead offered additional funding to prosecute gun-law violators, criminalized straw purchasing, and increased penalties on states that fail to provide mental health records to NICS. It included provisions to make interstate gun sales easier and expanded gun purchase rights for members of the military. It failed by eight votes in the Senate (52-48).
“Like citizens across New Hampshire, I want to find solutions that will stop criminals and those who are mentally ill from obtaining firearms,” Ayotte continued in her op-ed. “I want to make sure we punish those who try to access guns illegally. And I want to improve the nation's mental health system so that those who are on the front lines can identify the warning signs of mental illness and help those in need get proper help.”