The NRA Placed Big Bets on the 2016 Election, and Won Almost All of Them
The gun rights group placed multimillion-dollar bets on Donald Trump and six Republican Senate candidates locked in highly competitive races. It poured $50.2 million, or 96 percent of its total outside spending, into these races, and lost only one — an open seat in Nevada, vacated by the Democratic Minority Leader, Harry Reid. That race cost the NRA roughly $2.5 million.
The NRA’s big night came as a tidal wave of white voters without college degrees voted overwhelmingly for Trump, leading to one of the biggest election-night upsets in memory. The reasons why this demographic turned out in such high numbers for the GOP nominee will be parsed for years, and it is not at all clear how much of a factor his embrace of the NRA’s hardline position on gun rights played into the outcome.
But the NRA’s investment, which was more than any other outside group, paid for a slew of ads that directly targeted the same voters who propelled Trump to victory. The organization’s radio and television spots sought to cast Hillary Clinton and the Democratic rivals of its preferred Senate candidates as an existential threat to the Second Amendment, and national security. It is a message that resonates in the gun belt, a swath of primarily Southern and Midwestern states where Trump achieved some of his most consequential victories.