Two cheers for Toomey
In our view
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey shook up the political snow globe this month when the Republican helped put together a plan to make gun background checks more comprehensive.
The political flakes still are settling, and in interesting ways.
Such as this: "Make no mistake about it: I will support that guy," New York Mayor Bloomberg said this week, talking about what Toomey did. Bloomberg, a liberal independent, has made it known he will support anyone willing to work seriously on this issue.
Toomey's bill failed in the Senate, where nowadays only 60 assured votes can gin up enough collective courage to do anything.
Many here feel as Bloomberg does and would like to see Toomey not hounded from office over his work, which would be a dreadful example to others. Some Senate Republicans -- perhaps enough to hit the 60-vote mark -- seem willing to break with the NRA if doing so can be proved not to be political suicide.
Toomey's still the reliable social conservative if your issue is opposition to gay marriage or to interventionist environmentalism.
But he also said this: "I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control. I think it's just common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun."
In the state of things today, that passes for boldly sensible talk. Perhaps there's been an evolution. With further evolution possible.
Perhaps. It's been pointed out by Toomey's critics that this shift of his could be advantageous politically.
A Franklin & Marshall poll in February showed that support in Pennsylvania has snowballed for some mandatory universal background checks, the core of the Toomey-Manchin bill, which 94 percent of Pennsylvanians backed.
Yet the same level of support -- 94 percent -- is reported from polls in North Dakota. And that state's Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp, voted against the Toomey-Manchin measure.
A lot can happen in the four years till Toomey has a chance to run again. But the National Rifle Association won't forget this.
If Toomey faces a primary fight in 2016 from a staunch gun-rights candidate, what's an independent gun-control supporter to do? If you're a Bloomberg-style independent (and there are more of them voting here each year), and you think of goals, not parties, do you cross the line and vote for Toomey?
There are strange bedfellows in politics, and there are likely to be more of them before national gun laws can change.