HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Expecting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “double down” on his nationwide anti-gun efforts in the 2014 elections, an invigorated National Rifle Association is planning a massive ground game to win Republican control of the Senate, according to officials.
Here to open the NRA's new Great American Outdoor Show, the nation's largest of its kind, top officials from the group described winning the Senate a do-or-die goal this year, especially because of the possibility that President Obama could get another chance to appoint a new, liberal Supreme Court justice.
“We fully expect to win a pro-gun Senate in this cycle,” said NRA President Jim Porter. “It is vital certainly to our issues, but it is vital to the well-being of this country,” he told Secrets.
David Keene, former NRA president, added the group is expanding its effort to tell supporters how critical the election is, though he added that most gun-rights supporters already believe that Democrats and the president are unfriendly.
Acknowledging that the president muddied the gun issue in the 2012 election, Keene said, “now they know and gun owners are like other people: Once fooled, the second time it doesn’t work. So they know what the opposition is, they know how close it is in the Senate, they know that the Supreme Court could be at stake in the next few years.”
Keene added that in past elections where the NRA has weighed in, the group has make a difference of about 3 percent of the vote, enough in close elections to win. “This year it might be more than that and in today’s world that’s everything,” he said, adding that the NRA is preparing a massive ground game to educate and invigorate supporters, as high as 50 million according to some reports.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam added the gun-rights group expects Democratic senators in conservative states to be pressured by Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns for their votes last April in support of gun rights.
“Bloomberg is not going away. What he’s going to do is double down. This is definitely not over yet we still have a lot of work to do, with emphasis on ‘a lot,’ ” he said.
The revived Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg is a part of that. Cancelled last year after sponsors organized a boycott because the former organizer banned the AR-15 from displays following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the NRA took charge and is signing up new members from the expected 200,000-plus attendees.
It is also proving to be a public relations bonanza for the group, which added a shooting sports hall to the sprawling convention inside the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.
“The NRA's taking it over is a good thing,” said Ralph Cianciarulo, who hosts TV's “Archer's Choice.” He added, “It's good the show is back.”
Keene said that when the NRA sponsors big shows, the group wins new credibility from non-members, key when the organization unleashes its political fury. “They are going to say, ‘Those are our guys.’ That helps the brand,” he said.
Many of the vendors at the show, which continues through next weekend, said that customers also sense that their gun rights are jeopardized by the president and congressional liberals eager to implement gun control measures.
Pete Brownell, whose “Brownells” is the world's largest suppliers of gun accessories, especially for weapons like the AR-15, told Secrets that customers are buying guns, gun parts and survival gear that they had only considered in the past. “Some people say now it's time to do it because we may not have it in the future,” he said.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.