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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT