Ever since then presidential candidate Obama snarked on Americans who “cling to their guns and their bibles,” it’s been assumed that the firearms and faith folks are in the Republicans’ pocket. thedaily.com begs to differ. Good Will Hunting claims “Obama makes a surprising play for gun-toters who support conservation.” The president may be clinging to clean energy (e.g. Solyndra) and threats of biblical catastrophe (e.g. global warming) but there’s no evidence that Obama’s Boyz are specifically reaching out to “sportsmen.” Still it makes a good story—even if you have to rely on a dubious “polling data and numerous interviews.” At the risk of blowing this theory to smithereens, let’s drill down a bit deeper (so to speak) . . .
Methodology? MIA. Sample size? What’s a “sportsman”? What questions did they answer? What does “likely political affiliation” mean? While we’re at it, who’s the guy with the gun in the photo above?
Anyway, that’s the wind-up. Here’s the pitch . . .
John Gale grew up in rural Idaho, where he jokes about being born with a fishing “rod in one hand and a gun in the other.” A fifth-generation descendant of Western pioneers, he grew up in a family of conservative ranchers and farmers and even spent some time working in state Republican politics before relocating to Colorado. These days, he spends about a third of the year outdoors hunting and fishing.
Every East Coaster’s stereotype of a gun-toting, knee-jerk, Obama-hating conservative, right?
Wrong. Gale, an independent voter, cast his ballot for Barack Obama in 2008. And while he’s still undecided this time around, he’s hardly fleeing from the president’s tent.
The reason: Conservation policy matters deeply to him, perhaps more than any other issue.
“Obama has done a lot for sportsmen and natural resources,” Gale said in an interview after shooting clay pigeons with a reporter — with 12- and 28-gauge shotguns — in a state park here recently. “We’ve got to make sure that the same places that I learned to hunt and fish with my dad, that my daughter can someday go learn to hunt and fish in the same places.
Sounds like a Colorado College donor to me! Maybe even an alumni! What are the odds?
Summary: gun-toting (not clinging) conservation-minded voters think Republicans suck. They’re the party of drill baby drill! These Western huntin’ and fishin’ voters see the Democrats in general and the Prez in particular as protectors of our wildlife heritage. Mind you . . .
“Conservation is not political,” Gale said. “It transcends all party affiliations, and what we need to do is reinspire Americans to hold the value of being stewards of our natural resources highly again.”
Who the hell talks like that? Anyway, enough “fair and balanced.” Can we please manipulate the dubious data to bash the Republicans for endangering the lands upon which sportsmen dote? Sure!
But contrary to popular perception, [sportsman are] increasingly up for grabs, according to polling data and numerous interviews. The ones who care most about conservation are deeply disillusioned by what they describe as the GOP’s disregard for preservation of public lands in favor of free-wheeling energy development. Indeed, the same Colorado College poll found sportsmen by a wide margin favoring environmental laws to protect open lands . . .
“I’m not sure that the Republican Party is true to that Teddy Roosevelt legacy anymore,” said Juan Bernandez, a computer systems administrator in New Mexico who hunts deer and antelope. He voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to do so again this year.
Many sportsmen interviewed said Romney’s travels out West have left them unconvinced that he understands the importance of public lands.
And now the conclusion, which walks back the headline and main thesis to maintain some shred of credibility.
No one expects sportsmen to flock to Obama in large numbers, their conservatism on fiscal and cultural issues being sufficient to keep them in the GOP tent. The question is at the margins, and it’s here that sportsmen who are skeptical of Republican policies are hopeful.
Eric Petlock, a conservation advocate who got his hunting license as a teenager, lamented large-scale oil exploration in states like Montana.
“These are some of the last, best, big-game-hunting areas in the United States, and they’re solidly in the cross hairs of these big development projects,” said Petlock, an independent who voted for Obama in 2008 and is leaning toward doing so again. “And they’ll go away unless sportsmen get involved and make sure it’s done responsibly.”
By voting for Obama? Really? We report you deride. Oh wait; we deride you decide.