The National Rifle Association said they were "all in" on the 2012 election. They lost. Now it's the media's responsibility to stop portraying them as an invincible electoral juggernaut.
The media has warned for years that strengthening gun violence prevention laws is impossible because of the political power of the gun lobby. This claim was always flawed; studies show that the NRA and its allies do not wield outsized power, and common sense gun policies are favored by large majorities of Americans and even, in some cases, NRA members.
But yesterday's election results provide incontrovertible evidence that the media's portrayal of the politics surrounding the gun issue has been inaccurate.
The NRA's mantra throughout the election season was that they were "all in" to defeat President Obama. In his cover story for the election issue of the NRA magazine America's First Freedom, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged readers to "send President Obama his walking papers," writing, "This is it. We're down to the wire. It's now or never, victory or defeat. The time for talking is over. On Election Day, Nov. 6 -- only a month from now -- Americans will vote either to defend or surrender freedom in the most consequential national decision in U.S. history."
The NRA backed up LaPierre's words with more than $11 million in often misleading television, radio, and digital ads, direct mail, and other election spending attacking Obama and supporting Mitt Romney, with much of the spending earmarked for swing states.
On Election Day, President Obama was re-elected, winning at least 303 electoral votes and a majority of the popular vote.
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.)
American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman explained the NRA's electoral game inan analysis earlier this year:
Every election follows a pattern. The NRA says this is the most important election ever, and mobilizes its resources to elect Republicans. If Republicans win, as they did in 1994 and 2000, the group says: See, we told you everything depends on us and our issue. If Democrats win, as they did in 2008 and 2006, the NRA is quiet.
The NRA, by their own account, went "all in" this cycle. The media should not let them hide their failure.