As the Democratic Party struggles to find an electoral path which will enable it to avoid losing control of the House of Representatives in November, one surprising source of hope is the National Rifle Association.
Although generally seen as a close ally of the Republicans, the group is actually willing to support any candidate who favors gun rights. According to the Washington Post, the NRA "has endorsed 58 incumbent House Democrats, including more than a dozen in seats that both parties view as critical to winning a majority."
"The endorsements aren't the result of a sudden love for a party with which the NRA is often at odds," the Post notes. "Rather, the powerful group adheres to what it calls 'an incumbent-friendly' policy, which holds that if two candidates are equally supportive of gun rights, the incumbent gets the nod. ... The policy is frustrating Republicans who think the group is hurting its own cause and the party's chances next month."
In one typical case, the Associated Press reported this week that "the National Rifle Association has endorsed North Carolina Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell in his first re-election bid. The chairman of the NRA's Political Victory Fund said Wednesday gun owners and hunters can trust Kissell to fight for their Second Amendment rights. The endorsement provides a boost for Kissell as he seeks re-election against Republican challenger Harold Johnson in one of the state's most competitive congressional districts."
The NRA's pro-incumbent policy is proving particularly helpful to some prominent Democrats in conservative districts -- such as South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Virginia freshman Tom Perriello -- and has been a source of embarrassment to Republicans who have to explain why they have not gotten the nod.
As Matthew Sheffield points out at the Washington Examiner, the NRA endorsements are particularly rankling to conservatives who see them almost as a betrayal.
In an entry titled "The NRA is Helping Preserve the Anti Gun Democrat Majority," redstate.com blogger Daniel Horowitz recently complained, "Believe it or not, the only ones who might help Nancy Pelosi save her House majority are those who run legislative affairs at the NRA."
"So called Blue Dog Democrats across the nation are campaigning as red meat conservatives in their home districts, while running deceptive ads about their Republican opponents," Horowitz explained. "They campaign as if they have nothing to do with the Democrat Party that they propelled to power and which passed all of the nefarious legislation that they purport to oppose. The sick irony is that the more successful these liars are in distancing themselves from Pelosi, the more likely it will be that Pelosi will remain Speaker."
An NRA executive director, however, recently justified the group's bipartisan policy in an interview with the National Review. "One of the primary reasons that the National Rifle Association and gun owners continue to have success at the federal, state, and local levels," he explained, "is because we’re a single-issue organization. ... Those decisions have allowed us to build a bipartisan majority now that has proven to be not only beneficial but, I would argue, invaluable to protecting and promoting the Second Amendment. ... If it weren’t for our pro-gun Democrats, we would be having a very different conversation."