By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director
In the heat of summer, it may seem like an eternity until Election Day—but some of the most important elections of this cycle have already taken place.
For the past 36 years, gun owners in Indiana have watched with dismay as Sen. Richard Lugar abandoned his support for the Second Amendment. Over those three-plus decades, Lugar got our “F” rating the old-fashioned way—he earned it.
The Clinton gun ban, the Brady Bill, hunting bans—all found support from Dick Lugar. In his ill-fated bid for the presidency in 1996, one of his TV commercials proudly stated that he voted to ban millions of commonly owned firearms.
But even when his White House bid fizzled out, he pursued the gun-ban agenda, pushing to renew and expand the Clinton gun ban when it expired in 2004. It was little wonder that he was labeled “Obama’s favorite Republican” after the president took office.
For decades, Lugar went virtually unchallenged. But this year was different. Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock decided to challenge Lugar in the Republican primary. The pundit class was dismissive, believing the conventional wisdom that Lugar was unbeatable. But Mourdock believed otherwise. And so did the trustees of your NRA Political Victory Fund.
We did not come to this decision lightly. We scrutinized polling and voting statistics. We analyzed fundraising records, assessing the candidates’ support and its sources. In Lugar’s case, he was bankrolled primarily by the Beltway establishment—lobbyists, fundraisers and consultants. While Mourdock had far fewer dollars, his support was homegrown. And he was a strong Second Amendment stalwart.
The decision was made. The NRA Political Victory Fund endorsed Mourdock. But we knew it wouldn’t be enough just to issue the endorsement and hope gun owners would take notice. So we mobilized our election team and began producing TV and radio ads, direct mail, get-out-the-vote phone calls, and an online campaign to reach and mobilize NRA members, as well as other gun owners and hunters.
We bought hundreds of TV and radio ads in key markets. We sent hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail, not just to NRA members but also to gun owners, hunters, Right-to-Carry permit holders and other Second Amendment supporters. And we deployed a massive online advertising campaign.
When all the votes were counted on Election Day, Mourdock defeated Lugar by the astronomical margin of 60 to 40 percent. The pundits were amazed—but I wasn’t. I had faith in Indiana’s Second Amendment supporters and they pulled through just as I expected.
As this column goes to press, another victory has just been added to our roster. Loyal readers may recall that the 2010 election of Scott Walker as governor was the linchpin of our 12-year effort to enact Right to Carry in Wisconsin. Walker kept his promise and signed the bill into law soon after taking office.
Furious at his consistent support of the Second Amendment, anti-gun groups teamed with other groups to force a “recall” election. They attempted to defeat the governor and replace him with anti-gun candidate Tom Barrett, the same candidate Walker defeated in 2010. We countered with an even more comprehensive communications campaign to show Wisconsin gun owners what was at stake. The contest drew national attention and set records for spending. But when the votes were counted, Gov. Walker emerged victorious—with over 200,000 more votes than he received just two years ago—due largely to the efforts of your NRA and gun owners across the state.
The lessons of these two races bear remembering as we enter the final stages of Election Day 2012. No matter how hard the job may seem, or how badly the odds are stacked against us, gun owners can change the course of history. And on Nov. 6, 2012, I’m counting on all of us to do it again.