THE BLOG
07/03/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NRA Favorites in Indiana Facing Defeats? Plus Update

The Indiana primary tomorrow, May 4, could result in some long-time NRA favorites in the GOP taking some serious hits.

Most prominently, the NRA seems to have taken an "anybody but Coats" approach to the Republican U.S. Senate primary for the open seat being vacated by Evan Bayh.

On April 22, the "National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund" sent out a mailer highlighting that "only one" of the three leading candidates for the GOP nomination had "cast anti-gun votes during his tenure in office." In particular, the NRA is angry that "In 1993, ...then-Senator Dan Coats voted for the Feinstein Amendment to ban the purchase, sale and transfer of certain semi-automatic rifles... and for the 'Brady Bill'...."

The NRA has already spent $18K on these anti-Coats mailings which laud their "A" rated former long-time Congressman John Hostetler (who once tried to take a loaded gun on a plane and argued that the 2nd Amendment allowed individuals to have tactical nuclear weapons) along with "A+" rated State Senator Marlin Stutzman.

Less likely to lose than Hostetler and Stutzman, but still endangered, are NRA favorites Rep. Mark Souder (IN-3) and Rep. Dan Burton (IN-5). Both of these congressmen have long fought to gut DC's gun laws, with Souder introducing new legislation to undo the District's laws written to comply with the 2008 decision of the U.S.Supreme Court just in the last few days.

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Recent polling has Coats - who has not been on the ballot since 1992 - in the lead for the open Senate seat. Souder (in Congress since 1994) and Burton (in Congress since 1982) both have leads but are both well under 50% with 2 to 3 strong opponents each.

I've lost Congressional primaries to both Coats (in 1980 for Dan Quayle's open seat) and Souder (in 2002). Neither has ever been beat. In a lifetime of following, and being involved in, Indiana Republican politics (I was the winner of the GOP primary for the same Senate seat involved here when it was last open in 1998), I've never seen an incumbent GOP congressional representative defeated in the primary.

Tomorrow's results in the Indiana GOP primaries could tell us how strong the anti-DC mood is with the GOP in the heartland, and whether the NRA's opposition or support makes any difference.

UPDATE

Just as I predicted in my May 3 blog, the NRA's attempt to defeat former Indiana Senator Dan Coats' bid to regain the seat he vacated in 1998 was unsuccessful in Tuesday's GOP primary. The NRA spent nearly $1.8K sending postcards to its mailing list in Indiana attacking Coats.

The NRA was unhappy with Coats because he voted for the Brady Bill in 1993 - legislation which has helped stop over 1.8 million prohibited purchasers (like felons and the dangerously mentally ill) from buying guns from licensed gun dealers.

Spending over $3.5K to help long time (28 years) GOP incumbent, Rep. Dan Burton (IN-5), and another $3.5K for another long time (16 years) GOP incumbent, Mark Souder (IN-3), still didn't get either of those NRA favorites over the 50% level, even though both were able to win because their opponents split the votes against the incumbents.

It's hard to draw too many strong conclusions about the NRA's decreasing political clout from one state's primary, but this is something that should be watched as the year progresses. The big test - will Wayne LaPierre's frequent visits and the NRA endorsement help save one of their strong favorites, Sen. Harry Reid (D -NV), in his re-election campaign this November, or will all that be seen as an irrelevancy at best by voters unhappy with Washington?