NRA plans $40M fall blitz targeting Obama
The National Rifle Association plans to spend about $40 million on this year’s campaign, with $15 million of that devoted to portraying Barack Obama as a threat to the Second Amendment rights upheld last week by the Supreme Court.
“Our members understand that if Barack Obama is elected president, and he has support in the Senate to confirm anti-gun Supreme Court nominees, [the District of Columbia v. Heller decision] could be taken away from us in the future,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s political arm, told Politico.
The politically powerful gun rights group will split its message efforts between communicating with its 4 million members and the tens of millions more firearms owners across the country.
This fall, NRA members will get automated phone calls, mail pieces and pre-election editions of the group’s three magazines making the case against Obama. More broadly, the group will use an independent expenditure effort to hammer the Democratic nominee via TV, radio and newspaper ads in some of about 15 battleground states in the Midwest and Mountain West.
“We look forward to showing him ‘bitter,’” Cox said, referring to Obama’s statement this spring that some in rural America “cling” to guns and religion out of bitterness.
Since 2000, Democrats have made a conscious decision to avoid alienating gun owners and Second Amendment enthusiasts, as many in the party believe a NRA-stoked backlash cost Al Gore his home state of Tennessee , as well as West Virginia and Arkansas, in the 2000 presidential election. In the days leading up to Election Day four years ago, Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) even went so far as to symbolically court gun owners, donning camouflage and hoisting a 12-gauge in what turned out to be a goose hunt in more ways than one.
And Obama is now charting a similar course, never raising the gun issue on the stump except, when asked, to say that he respects Second Amendment rights. Indeed, the day Heller came down, he issued a carefully worded statement that indicated neither support nor opposition to the decision but clarity on a broader point meant to assure gun owners that he’s not a threat. McCain voiced enthusiastic support for the Heller decision.
One pro-gun Democrat in the House said the decision would actually help Obama by clarifying that gun ownership is an individual right and further dissuading Democrats from pursuing what has proved to be a political loser at the national level.
“It’s a nonissue,” said Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents a blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio-area district and has won the backing of the NRA. “Democrats have learned a lesson to not campaign on it.” And, he said, “the reality is that there is not going to be any gun legislation to get through Congress.”
But Cox said the 5-4 decision had galvanized sportsmen and Second Amendment enthusiasts and would thrust the issue back into the political arena.“This is the first salvo in a step-by-step restoration of this right,” Cox said calling Heller “only the end of the beginning.”
And the next step in that cause could be a politically awkward one for Obama.
The NRA filed suit on Friday to overturn handgun laws in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, and three Windy City suburbs
“You put a microphone to his face and ask: ‘Do you support the Chicago gun control laws?’” said Grover Norquist, an NRA board member, envisioning how to prolong the story and make the Illinois senator squirm.
It’s a quandary that the NRA and the McCain campaign hope will haunt Obama in battleground states with a deep attachment to the hunting culture that crosses party lines.
“I don’t think they help the Republican Party at all, but I don’t think they should in any way play a major role in the Republican Party’s policy making,” McCain told CNN in 2000.
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