The National Rifle Association took a historic gamble in 2016, and it paid off in a huge way, reports The Trace. 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 into these races, and lost only one — an open seat in Nevada, vacated by 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. The reasons why this demographic turned out in such high numbers for the GOP nominee will be parsed for years, and it is not clear how much of a factor his embrace of the NRA’s position on gun rights played into the outcome.
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 a 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. In October, says the Center for Public Integrity, one of every 20 television ads in Pennsylvania was sponsored by the NRA. That same month, the group paid for one in nine ads in North Carolina, and one of every eight in Ohio. The ads imply that Clinton and Democrats would leave law-and-order abiding citizens defenseless. In one spot, a woman is alone in bed when a burglar breaks into her home. The narrator intones, “Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.”