The National Rifle Association will launch a print advertising campaign targeting mostly Democratic senators up for re-election in 2014, according to sources close to the group.
On Thursday, full-page ads are scheduled to run in local newspapers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia. They will be supplemented by digital advertising in these states and 10 others, including Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire and South Dakota.
Additionally, the group has scheduled full-page ads to run Feb. 25 in regional editions of USA Today, reaching parts of 15 states.
The NRA is planning to spend more than $375,000 on the campaign. But the NRA's clout with voters has eroded over the years. In fact, things have gotten so bad that if the NRA really wants to hurt Democrats' chances, they might do more damage by endorsing them.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that an NRA endorsement does more harm than good. "39% say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had the NRA's support to just 26% who say they'd be more likely to, with 32% saying it wouldn't influence them one way or the other," PPP reported. "Among independents 41% consider an NRA endorsement to be a turn off to 27% who say it's a plus."
Since these are Senate races, indies make all the difference in the world. It would stand to reason that if an NRA endorsement is a negative, NRA condemnation of your opponent would likewise cause you harm. After all, it's a de facto endorsement.
In fact, the blood lobby's recent record with Senate races in particular suggests Democrats should welcome that condemnation.
The presidential election was not the only race where the NRA failed to elect their candidate. They spent more than $100,000 on seven general election Senate races: Ohio (more than $1 million), Virginia ($688,802), Florida ($629,553), Wisconsin ($571,811), Missouri ($343,299), Arizona ($323,474), and Maine ($117,612). They lost all but Arizona, often by healthy margins, with their candidates going down by more than ten points in Florida, Missouri, and Maine.
(The NRA also spent more than $100,000 to back the Republican primary campaigns of Sen. Orin Hatch in Utah and Richard Mourdoch in Indiana. Both won their primaries, but Mourdoch was defeated on Election Day.)
If I were a Senate Democrat running for reelection, I'd be prank calling NRA headquarters every day, hoping to make enemies. Their record is just that terrible. In any case, I doubt this new campaign is making anyone other than Republicans break a sweat.