This is noteworthy, beyond the fact that the NRA — which usually reserves most of its firepower for use on behalf of Republicans — is aggressively propping up a Democrat. It suggests the NRA may still believe Baucus is gettable as a vote for Manchin-Toomey. Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith yesterday laid out an unlikely but possible scenario in which Baucus, who is retiring, gets won over after sustained pressure and flips a few red state Dems and even a Republican or two with him. As Smith puts it, “he has nothing to lose.”
What’s more, note the NRA’s call for constituents to continue flooding Baucus’ office with calls. This morning Politico published an interview with Heidi Heitkamp in which she confirmed she voted against Toomey-Manchin because more calls were coming into her office against it than for it. The NRA has long excelled at mobilizing an impassioned minority to cow lawmakers. And with gun control and liberal groups currently running ads hammering red state Dems over their vote, the NRA evidently recognizes the need to maintain the intensity gap in its favor going forward.
Today Chuck Schumer predicted that Manchin-Toomey will get another vote, and John McCain agreed with him.
“I think we’re going to bring this bill back before the end of the year and I think you may find some changes,” said Schumer. “I think you may find some changes out there in the public. Lots of senators who thought it was safe to vote against it because of the intensity are not so sure anymore.” Added McCain: “I do agree with Chuck that I think the issue is going to come back.”
Schumer’s quote strongly suggests negotiations are ongoing among Senators, which dovetails with what I’ve heard, too, and McCain remaining engaged is also key.
None of this is to say that the odds don’t remain very long against anything happening. Indeed, all of this suggests that it’s really on the gun control groups to prove, right now, that a real political price can be extracted from Senators for their No vote.
UPDATE: Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is pressuring Baucus with ads, responds:
Our ad features the voices of 80 local Montana hunters and gun owners, while the NRA was able to find zero for their ad. That’s because the NRA’s goal is to defend their main funders — the gun manufacturers that profit by selling guns to criminals. Our goal is to stand up for the 79 percent of Montanans who support common-sense background checks, and that should be Max Baucus’ goal, too.