Skip to main content

GOP, ready to turn your back on NRA?

By Joe McLean, Special to CNN
updated 6:37 PM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joe McLean: The NRA has bought many elections with massive spending
  • McLean: But Americans are finally fed up and seem to be cooling toward the NRA
  • He says some senators who voted down background checks saw a hit in approval ratings
  • McLean: More politicians may change their minds if they lose support for opposing gun control

Editor's note: Joe McLean, senior partner at McLean/Clark LLC, is a political consultant. He worked on Barack Obama's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

(CNN) -- On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton delivered the first of a series of lectures on public service at his alma mater, Georgetown University. When questioned by a student on the failure of the legislation on gun background check in the Senate, Clinton spoke in parables.

"You know that old story about, the problem with a cat that sits on a hot stove is that cat will never sit on a hot stove again, but also it will never sit on a cold stove. I think this is a cold stove," Clinton mused.

Like most parables, the message was clear. For the past 30 years, the NRA has bought many elections with massive spending and grass-roots campaigns. No candidate who has ever been scorched on the NRA's stove wants to get burned again, so they cower in the corner. Politicians quake in fear whenever CEO Wayne LaPierre threatens hellfire and brimstone upon any apostate with the temerity to question the NRA's gospel of the gun.

Joe McLean
Joe McLean

But America is finally fed up. New surveys by Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiac University confirm Clinton's view that the public has cooled to the NRA.

Several senators who voted against background checks have taken hits in their approval ratings. From February to April, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's overall approval rating dropped 8%. In Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman's rating went down 9% since October. And Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada saw his rating go down 3% since October/November. Alarmingly, for the NRA, this show of disapproval is happening in red states that should be gun rights strongholds.

Being on the wrong side of history can be painful. Today's more tea-flavored GOP politicians find themselves badly positioned on guns. Their ideological rigidity on immigration reform, marriage equality, reproductive rights, Wall Street reform and numerous other hot-button issues is unpopular.

When you factor in the outrage over gun violence, Republicans -- who seem inextricably bound to the NRA in the public's mind -- are under the gun.

This week, in a town hall meeting, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who voted down background checks, was confronted by the new political reality up close and personal. Erica Lafferty, whose mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was the principal at Sandy Hook and among the first to be gunned down, asked Ayotte, "You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important than that."

Ayotte defended her vote. But questions like the one Lafferty asked won't go away.

Gun vote follows senators home

We will see how the gun issue plays out on the national stage in the coming months. If senators lose support because they refuse to give way to some gun control regulations, we may see some changes of heart.

This has certainly been the case in the debate over immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the matter to the floor again in light of the popular support for immigration reform. It's possible that we may even see a background check bill come back to the Senate later in the year. Of course, the gerrymandered House is quite another matter.

So finally, the heat may be on the NRA for a change. And for the senators who voted against background checks, it looks like they've jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

As usual, Bill Clinton saw it coming.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joe McLean.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT