The Hidden Life of Guns
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The NRA’s electoral influence

The National Rifle Association endorsed candidates in about two-thirds of congressional races in the midterm elections. Often, the choice not to endorse was pragmatic -- either both candidates had top NRA ratings or both had poor ratings. Of those endorsed, 80 percent won, according to The Washington Post's analysis.

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Your Take: What do NRA political endorsements represent to you?

About NRA ratings

The NRA grades candidates based on their voting record on gun issues or on a questionnaire.

A+ "Excellent voting record" and "vigorous effort" on gun rights.

A "Solidly pro-gun," backed NRA on key votes or has positive record on gun rights.

AQ Pro-gun rating based solely on a questionnaire and without a voting record.

B May have opposed "pro-gun reform" or backed some gun restrictions.

C "Not necessarily a passing grade." Mixed record" on gun votes.

D "Anti-gun" supporter of "gun control legislation" who "can usually be counted on to vote wrong on key issues."

F "True enemy of gun owners' rights."

? "Refused to answer" questionnaire, "often an indication of indifference, if not outright hostility, to gun owners' rights."

The National Rifle Association spent $6.7 million in this year's midterm elections, with 98 percent benefiting Republican candidates. A powerhouse in elections, the NRA has spent nearly $75 million on campaigns in the past 20 years. Lawmakers have come to fear the group's motivated 4 million members, many of whom make gun rights a deciding factor in their vote.
SOURCES: Center for Responsive Politics, National Rifle Association web page, Federal Election Commission filings.
GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews, Tim Farnam, James Grimaldi, Dan Keating and Lucy Shackelford / The Washington Post.
Dec. 15, 2010.

© The Washington Post Company