Discuss as:

First Thoughts: The NRA fights back - with mixed success

The NRA fights back -- with mixed success so far… How the Newtown tragedy changed politics (at least inside one party)… Will the Arkansas pipeline spill affect the Keystone decision?... Mark Sanford on the comeback trail… Will the DCCC get involved if he wins today’s GOP run-off?... Polls close at 7:00 pm ET… And the second round of SENATE MADNESS continues!!!

Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters

Residents protest outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Conn., March 28, 2013 after receiving robocalls from the NRA, trying to enlist them in efforts to defeat new statewide gun control proposals.

*** The NRA fights back – with mixed success: At 11:00 am ET, the National Rifle Association will unveil its details to arm school guards across the country. This comes as the NRA -- after the Newtown school shooting tragedy --- has decided to fight all the gun-control legislation as aggressively as possible, despite early indications that it might look the other way on the trafficking or background-check bills. And while it has enjoyed plenty of success so far at the federal level (the assault-weapons ban has no chance for passage, and even universal background checks appear to be on the ropes), the state level has been a different story. First, Colorado recently passed gun-control laws that places limits on ammunition clips and institutes a universal background check, and President Obama will travel to the state this Wednesday to highlight those new laws. And now Connecticut is on the cusp on passing gun-control measures. The Hartford Courant: “Easy passage of the legislative response to the Dec. 14 [Newtown] killings is expected in House and Senate votes scheduled for Wednesday, leaders of both the Democratic majority and Republican minority said after completing weeks of negotiations on the bill.” The measures include strengthening the state’s existing ban on semi-automatic weapons, restricting high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for all gun purchasers.

*** How Newtown did change politics (inside one party): While both Colorado and Connecticut are states that have recently witnessed high-profile gun tragedies, they have this other similarity: They’re controlled by Democratic governors and Democratic state legislatures. Some observers have noted that the Newtown shootings -- and the NRA’s response to them (like invoking the president’s daughters in a video) -- haven’t changed the politics of guns. But that’s not true where Democrats have control of the government. As the NRA seems headed toward victory this on the federal level, the question becomes: Has it permanently damaged its reputation with Democrats? After all, what made the NRA powerful was its bipartisan reach. If that disappears, will the organization have problems the next time there’s a Democratic House speaker and a supermajority in the Senate?

*** Will the Arkansas pipeline spill affect the Keystone decision? We’re most likely just a few weeks from the Obama administration’s final decision on whether to give the Keystone XL pipeline a thumbs up or a thumbs down. And if you were placing bets on which direction the White House will go, most would say the smart money would be on Obama reluctantly approving the pipeline. But don’t underestimate the impact that this story might have on the approval process. “Exxon Mobil Corp continued efforts on Monday to clean up thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil spilled from a near 65-year-old pipeline in Arkansas, as a debate raged about the safety of transporting rising volumes of the fuel into the United States,” Reuters reports. Don’t forget: Just as the Obama administration opened up drilling along the Gulf Coast, the BP spill occurred. And as it was on the cusp of expanding nuclear energy, Japan happened. These events can have an impact. Timing is everything.

*** Sanford on the comeback trail: Following American politics can be fascinating. The latest example:  Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s political comeback. One minute, he’s the conservative darling standing up to the Obama administration and a possible 2012 presidential candidate. The next, he’s embarrassed and out of office after having an affair with an Argentine mistress when he’s supposed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail. Then he launches a political comeback by running for his old congressional seat, and the Conventional Wisdom maintains that he can’t break 50% in a run-off. But with the special congressional Republican run-off taking place today, the C.W. has turned due to a variety of reasons -- and Sanford appears poised to win the GOP nomination. And now the latest twist: The Democratic nominee for the May 7 general election, who just happens to be comedian Stephen Colbert’s sister, has released a poll showing her leading both Sanford and his run-off opponent, Curtis Bostic, in this conservative-leaning district. You can’t make this up.

*** Does the DCCC get involved? If Sanford wins today’s run-off in South Carolina -- the polls close at 7:00 pm ET -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee faces this question: Does it spend money (say $500,000) to help put Elizabeth Colbert Busch over the top? The DCCC tells us it’s evaluating the race. Make no mistake, Colbert Busch has this opportunity because of Sanford’s personal issues. And if she wins on May 7, it’s very likely she’ll have a difficult time holding onto the seat come Nov. 2014. So Democrats face this choice: Do they spend money to help win a temporary P.R. victory, knowing full well that it probably can’t hold onto the seat a year from now? Or do they sit back and consider the race a win-win, regardless of what happens next month? Colbert Busch needs the financial help, and that’s probably why her campaign released the poll yesterday -- to force the DCCC’s hand. Speaking of financial help, Stephen Colbert is hosting a fundraiser in DC for his sister on April 15.

*** Senate Madness -- yesterday’s results: In the 19th Century bracket, Daniel Webster easily beat William Seward, Sam Houston edged Stephen Douglas, Charles Sumner blew out James Buchanan, and John C. Calhoun defeated Thomas Hart Benton. In the Mixed Era, Henry Clay beat Sam Ervin, Robert La Follette defeated George Norris, #14 seed Scoop Jackson upset #6 seed William Borah, and Henry Cabot Lodge prevailed over Arthur Vandenberg.

*** Senate Madness -- the 2nd round continues: Today, the second-round contests take place in the 20th Century bracket: LBJ vs. Robert Wagner, Richard Russell vs. John Sherman Cooper, Mike Mansfield vs. John Stennis, and Everett Dirsken vs. William Fulbright…. And they also take place in the Modern Era: Ted Kennedy vs. Robert Byrd, Hubert Humphrey vs. Ed Brooke, Jesse Helms vs. Joe Biden, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan vs. Bob Dole.

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower