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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.


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