The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The NRA Will Still Be Heard This Cycle


Over in the Corner, Kathryn notices the NRA’s non-endorsement of Harry Reid.

(Unfortunately, whatever I write on this subject is often attributed to one of my best buddies. So let me preface this by saying this analysis is based on much more than our conversations.)

The NRA believes they are best served by having friends on both sides of the aisle. They define themselves as a single-issue organization; while many of their members would identify themselves as conservatives and many are Republicans, the organization believes that any lawmaker who takes the right stances and votes should be supported by the organization, regardless of their views on non-gun issues. This is perhaps best illustrated by the NRA’s “A” rating for Howard Dean while he was governor of Vermont. 

This is not to say that Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and the rest of the NRA’s leadership don’t have strong opinions about other issues; merely that they believe that the organization must always keep its eye on job one: protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights. In their mind, considering a lawmaker’s overall governing philosophy or votes on other issues would mean the organization’s mission would get fuzzy and indistinct. (One rare exception to this is the group’s opposition to most campaign finance reform efforts; they feel that limiting gun owners’ right to support their preferred candidates is as abominable as limiting their Second Amendment rights.)

A moment of conservative resurgence like this one ought to be a great, triumphant moment for the NRA. But certain Democratic lawmakers have figured out that in order to get elected in non-inner-city parts of the country, they have to be resolutely, consistently, and loudly pro-gun. So in a few of the cycle’s most high-profile races, the organization has found itself contemplating an endorsement of a Democrat loathed by many of their Republican members.

On paper, the NRA doesn’t have a lot of reasons to be upset with Harry Reid, even if many of their Nevada members are irate at Reid about “the war is lost,” runaway spending, support for the Obama agenda, obnoxious comments, etc.

In Ohio, Ted Strickland has been precisely the kind of governor the NRA would like to see. John Kasich, by comparison, supported the Assault Weapons Ban back in 1994. He insists he’s learned from his mistake, but the NRA never forgets a bad vote, and endorsed Strickland.

In Florida, the NRA’s state officers have a long and happy working relationship with Charlie Crist, and he’s given the organization little reason to complain.

Many races this fall will feature what we’re used to seeing – a highly-rated pro-gun Republican against a poorly-rated anti-gun Democrat. It’s just the NRA’s luck that two of their longtime allies – Reid and Crist – are among the biggest targets of grassroots conservatives this cycle.

The NRA has stated they will not endorse in the Nevada Senate race. However, whether or not the NRA endorses in a particular race, they grade every candidate who answers their questions. Reid’s Sotomayor and Kagan votes will probably cost him an “A.” In the state legislature, Angle was pro-gun and it’s hard to imagine her suddenly embracing any gun control programs at this point. While she may not get endorsed, she may get graded higher than the incumbent.

Tags: Charlie Crist , Harry Reid , John Kasich , Sharron Angle , Ted Strickland


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