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Reid: Dems a "couple" votes closer to support for background checks

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

It's only been a few weeks since the Senate struck down a measure aimed at expanding background checks for gun buyers, but Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says his party is already a "couple" votes closer to the support needed to approve the legislation.

Reid, speaking in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, was optimistic that the Senate would ultimately be able to pass the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment, a bipartisan compromise that was hammered out after weeks of negotiations, and which fell five votes short of passage in last month's vote.

"Joe Manchin called me yesterday," Reid said, according to a video posted on the Huffington Post. "He thinks he has a couple more votes."

Reid also suggested that the negative impacts of having voted against the measure were starting to hit home for some senators.

"The one senator, Republican Senator from New Hampshire [Kelly Ayotte], has been -- wham, man she's been hit hard," Reid said. "She's the only senator in the northeast to vote against background checks. She went from a hugely positive number in New Hampshire -- her negatives now outweigh her positives. She is being hit every place she goes."

Reid expressed hope that he could "get another Democrat or two" on board, which would mean "We may only need three additional Republicans."

"We are going to pick up some more votes," he said.

Ayotte, a moderate Republican, has been a particular point of focus for activists since the Senate bill was tabled. The gun safety group Americans for Responsible Solutions aired radio ads attacking her vote last month, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns is now going up with an ad in Boston and Manchester against her.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns also arranged for families of Newtown victims to attend Ayotte's town halls last week; at one event, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School's slain principle asked the senator "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the hall of her elementary school isn't as important as" the "burden to owners of gun stores."

Ayotte, however, has not signaled any intent to change her vote.