House Losses Demonstrate Weakness Of Media's NRA Narrative

Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

For years, the media has advanced a false narrative that the National Rifle Association is an electoral powerhouse with a real ability to impact the outcomes of elections. The 2012 elections clearly demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is at odds with reality. While most incumbents in the House of Representatives kept their seats on November 6, over two-thirds of incumbents who lost were backed by the NRA.

Slate's Brian Palmer summed up the media's conventional wisdom on the NRA over the summer, when he wrote that the group "can reliably deliver votes," and this "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."

This false media narrative of NRA's supposed influence on elections has persisted, even as an analysis by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) concluded that both NRA endorsements and campaign contributions have a negligible impact on elections. In a study of House races over four election cycles, Waldman determined that Republican incumbents did not receive a statistically significant advantage if endorsed by the NRA. The average campaign contribution of $2,500 to NRA-endorsed House candidates was also found to have insignificant impact on elections.

Of the 26 incumbent House members who lost on Election Day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA. Defeated incumbents included four Democrats and 14 Republicans. Four of the eight defeated incumbents not endorsed by the NRA were Democrats who lost to other Democrats in California's top-two primary system.

Overall, the NRA fared poorly in the 2012 election. According to open government group the Sunlight Foundation, the NRA Political Victory Fund, the NRA's political action committee, received a less than one percent return on $10,536,106 spent on independent expenditures during the election cycle. The NRA spent 0.44 percent of its money supporting winning candidates and 0.39 percent opposing losing candidates.* The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization's lobbying arm, garnered a 10.25 percent return on $7,448,017 spent on the election. In seven Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, six of the NRA-backed candidates lost.

The following NRA endorsed incumbents were defeated on Election Day. Two incumbents included in this analysis are currently trailing vote tallies, but those races have not been officially called:

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) was defeated by Democrat Raul Ruiz by a 3.8 percent margin. The NRA endorsed Mack but did not make a contribution to her re-election efforts.

Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) was defeated by Democrat Joe Garcia by a 10.6 percent margin. The NRA contributed $1,000 to Rep. Rivera during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) was defeated by Democrat Bill Foster by a 16.2 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. Biggert during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) was defeated by Democrat Cheri Bustos by a 6.6 percent margin. The NRA contributed $3,500 to Rep. Schilling during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) was defeated by Democrat Tammy Duckworth by a 9.4 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. Walsh during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY) was defeated by Republican Andy Barr by a 3.9 percent margin. The NRA contributed $4,000 to Rep. Chandler during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) was defeated by Democrat John Delaney by a 20.5 percent margin. The NRA contributed $4,000 to Rep. Bartlett during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) was defeated by Democrat Rick Nolan by a 9.0 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. Cravaack during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) was defeated by Republican Richard Hudson by a 8.2 percent margin. The NRA contributed $3,000 to Rep. Kissell during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) was defeated by Democrat Annie Kuster by a 5.1 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. Bass during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) was defeated by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter by a 3.7 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. Guinta during the 2012 election cycle. 

Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) was defeated by Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney by a 3.4 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,500 to Rep. Hayworth during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) was defeated by Democrat Dan Maffei by a 4.6 percent margin. The NRA contributed $2,500 to Rep. Buerkle during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) was defeated by Republican Chris Collins by a 1.4 percent margin. The NRA contributed $3,000 to Rep. Hochul during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA) was defeated by Republican Keith Rothfus by a 3.6 percent margin. The NRA contributed $3,500 to Rep. Critz during the 2012 election cycle.

Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R-TX) was defeated by Democrat Pete Gallego by a 4.8 percent margin. The NRA contributed $4,950 to Rep. Canseco during the 2012 election cycle. 

Democrat Patrick Murphy leads Rep. Allen West (R-FL) by a margin of .6 percent. Rep. West has not conceded. The NRA contributed $2,000 to Rep. West during the 2012 election cycle.

Democrat Scott Peters leads Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) by a margin of .8 percent. Rep. Bilbray has not conceded. The NRA contributed $2,500 to Rep. Bilbray during the 2012 election cycle. 

*These numbers have been updated to reflect the release of additional information by the Sunlight Foundation concerning the NRA's independent expenditures during the 2012 elections.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Guns
Stories/Interests
2012 Elections, National Rifle Association
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