For obvious reasons, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is horrifying to her fellow members of Congress. But the location of the shooting will cast a special chill for many congressmen, inluding Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who advises politically vulnerable Democrats like Giffords.
Giffords was shot outside a supermarket performing one of the basic chores of a U.S. representative: being accessible to constituents. And setting up a table outside a supermarket, where constituents can drop by with a question or a comment, is one of the ways Murphy tells his colleagues to keep tabs on the mood back home.
“You will create a reputation that you want their opinion, but you also will get a much more accurate reflection of where your district is,” Murphy told me in 2009 for a piece I did for the New York Times. In 2008, Murphy said his first stop after voting for the Wall Street bailout bill was the Stop & Shop supermarket in New Britain.
“I stood outside that Stop & Shop for four hours that afternoon, just to get an organic feel for where people were,” he said. “Somewhat to my surprise, it gave me a lot more confidence I had cast the right vote. More people said, ‘Tough vote but you did the right thing,’ than yelled and screamed at me.”
Murphy, a 5th District congressman, helped run the Democrats’ Frontline Program in 2010, advising vulnerable Democrats in swing districts how to improve their chances for re-election. Giffords, a Democrat in a traditionally Republican district, was one of the Democrats selected for help by Frontline.
In his Twitter feed, Murphy said after the shooting, “I can’t stop shaking in disbelief. This is awful beyond words.”