If Trump’s instinct is to fear the NRA less and follow the guidance of legendary business leaders such as FedEx’s Fred Smith more, data suggest it would be a wise political move. Even before the most recent mass shooting, the influence of LaPierre’s organization on elections was fading. In the Virginia governor’s race, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam cheerfully embraced his “F” rating from the NRA while campaigning for universal background checks. Despite the NRA pouring more than $1 million into ads against him, Northam easily defeated Republican Ed Gillespie. He is the second-straight candidate opposed by the NRA to be elected governor in the gun group’s home state.
Tales of the gun lobby’s outsize influence also took a pounding in December’s Senate race in Alabama. There, the NRA spent nearly $55,000 on a mailer claiming that Democrat Doug Jones “can’t be trusted to support your Second Amendment rights” and “will be another vote for the Bloomberg-Schumer-Pelosi gun control agenda!”