While some GOP lawmakers veer right for fear of primary threats, one vulnerable House Republican continues to inch closer to other end of his party’s spectrum for political survival.
Last week, Illinois Rep. Robert Dold, one of the most endangered House Republicans, signed onto a bipartisan bill that would expand background checks for gun purchasers. It was the latest in a series of moves by Dold — now serving his second, non-consecutive term — that showcased his moderate stripes.
In all of his campaigns for the 10th District, Dold presented himself as a moderate who would vote with the interests of his constituents. But since his return to Capitol Hill, Dold has moved further to the center.
He was one of just three House Republicans to vote against a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law in February. That’s a change from his first stint in the House, when he voted to repeal or defund the president’s signature law on multiple occasions.
In January, he was one of 26 Republicans — and the only GOP member from Illinois — to vote against defunding Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program allows young immigrants to apply for relief from deportation.
On Tuesday, Dold signed on to co-sponsor the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act. The bill would expand background checks for all firearm purchases and it is endorsed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who became a gun control advocate.
“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership, I am proud to co-author this commonsense legislation that will help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill,” Dold said in a news release.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control super PAC has also endorsed Dold — twice.
National Republican operatives said Dold is also seeking to boost his profile on issues pertaining to Israel. Support for the Jewish state is a key policy point for the large Jewish population in the 10th District, and one Schneider focused on during his two years in Congress. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on March 3 , Dold helped escort Netanyahu to the House floor.
“Obviously this isn’t his first rodeo,” said one national Republican operative. “He understands what kind of district he represents.”
The 10th District typically votes for Democrats in presidential cycles. Obama won it in 2008 and 2012 by a 27- and 16-point margin, respectively. Democrats hope the district will once again lean their way if former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — whose hometown of Park Ridge, Ill., lies just outside the 10th District — is the party’s nominee.
At the same time, 10th District voters have sent Republicans to Congress for most of the last couple of decades. Republican Sen. Mark S. Kirk held the seat for a decade before ascending to the Senate in 2010.
But in 2012, Democrats made the district more favorable to the party during the decennial redistricting process, pulling in minority voters in the southernmost section. The redraw makes the district better for Democrats in presidential cycles, when minority turnout is higher, but harder for the party to hold in midterms when turnout drops.
Seeking to bolster Dold’s chances, the National Republican Congressional Committee added Dold to its Patriot Program , which provides fundraising and strategic help to the most vulnerable GOP House members.
But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already signaled they will target Dold next November, when the party will seek to net the 30 seats necessary to take control of the House.
The day after Dold promoted new gun control legislation at a news conference, national Democrats attacked him with robocalls tying him to the House GOP flank that threatened to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over Obama’s executive order on immigration.
“Congressman Dold may call himself a moderate at home, but in Washington he stands with Republicans against issues like health care reform and women’s rights,” DCCC Communications Director Matt Thornton said in an email. “Dold may think he has voters fooled, but it’s clear he is a faithful Republican foot soldier eager to do John [A.] Boehner’s bidding.”
But Democrats might have a more pressing issue for 2016. The party could host a primary battle to select their nominee to challenge Dold next year.
Schneider, who proved to be an adept fundraiser, inched closer to a rematch during a trip to Washington, D.C., last week. A second Democrat, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rodkin Rotering, is also mulling a run.