There are few absolute truths in American politics, but here are two: No one can reliably predict the outcome of an election season, and there is no secret weapon that can ensure a victory.
The past few years have seen monumental changes in the way campaigns and elections are run in our nation. For example, not long ago, campaign volunteers had to take a shotgun approach, knocking on every door in the neighborhood to turn out voters. Today, sophisticated data analysis known as “microtargeting” lets campaigns use a more precise approach, finding and focusing on their most likely voters.
This is true not only for candidates but for organizations like ours. In an era of billion-dollar campaigns and $100 million-dollar “super PACs,” it’s harder than ever for individual groups to be heard. As the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and chairman of the NRA Political Victory Fund, I have a duty to make sure that we use our resources—including the hard work of our volunteers and the generous donations of our financial supporters—as effectively as possible. This year, the NRA used every tool available to focus on the races in which we could have the greatest impact and on the voters we could most effectively reach.
By the numbers, here is a partial rundown of what we did in this election season:
We sent out 50 million mailers and phone calls—a 60 percent increase over 2010. We ran 320 million online ads in the presidential election, the races for U.S. Senate and the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election—a 531 percent increase over 2010. (And no, that’s not a typo.)
We ran targeted television and radio ads in key battleground states and we hired 25 full-time campaign field workers in 13 states. This staff allowed us to organize grassroots efforts that affected not only high profile statewide races, but important congressional and state legislative races as well.
I wish I could say every candidate we supported was elected, but that wasn’t the case. As a nonpartisan organization solely focused on our Second Amendment freedom and hunting heritage, however, we must keep in mind that when the votes are counted in Congress or in your state legislature, they are counted regardless of party affiliation. So, even as the news media discusses the election outcome only in terms of partisan shifts, we look at the people who have been elected and judge them on their position on our right to keep and bear arms.
At the federal level, we helped re-elect important allies in the U.S. Senate, including Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V. We also helped elect new pro-gun senators such as Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, we helped protect and retain a strong pro-gun majority, which will remain a critical firewall against efforts to restrict our rights.
Our campaign also helped pass meaningful state constitutional amendments to protect the right to hunt and fish in Idaho, Kentucky and Nebraska, and an amendment to the Louisiana constitution that gives that state the strongest protection for the right to keep and bear arms in the nation.
Most importantly, the organization and technology we set up for this election will allow us to be more effective for years to come. For example, we made great strides in our use of new media to communicate with our supporters and to broaden our reach. While traditional electioneering through direct mail, television and radio will continue, the use of online social media allows us to maintain contact throughout the year with millions of gun owners who need to know what is happening in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals. The work we did in this election to increase our online presence will play a huge role in all future efforts to protect our rights.
I am very proud of the work the NRA and its members did in this election. I know that without our involvement, there would be far less support for the right to keep and bear arms in Congress and in the state legislatures as we enter 2013. I also know it is the millions of NRA members and tens of millions of gun owners who donate their time and money to our cause that make our efforts possible, and for that I am truly and deeply grateful.