July 23, 2009

The NRA Will Score Sotomayor Vote

In a letter issued to Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the National Rifle Association has followed up its concerns about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's hostile record on the Second Amendment by including her confirmation vote in its highly influential evaluations of legislative candidates. What this means is that the NRA, which keeps track of each senator and congressman's votes on gun-related legislation and "grade" them according to their record of support for gun rights, will incorporate how a senator votes on Sotomayor's nomination into its overall ratings system. Thus, a vote in favor of her confirmation will cause the senator's score to drop.

As has been mentioned numerous times (including here and here), the Second Amendment issue is one that has the potential to persuade Democrats from red and moderate states to vote against Sotomayor. I explained why this is the case in a previous post:

No red or purple state Democrat can afford to attract the fury of gun rights proponents and still manage to win reelection, and don’t expect any of them to sacrifice their jobs for a vote on a Supreme Court nominee.

The effect that an NRA-scored vote can have on these Democratic senators was vividly demonstrated just yesterday, as Robert Alt points out, during the vote on Senator Thune's concealed-carry amendment. Although the amendment failed to gain the 60 votes necessary for passage, 20 red state Democrats joined the 38 Republicans who voted in favor of it. Mr. Alt has compiled a list of these Senators, which I have reproduced here:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Hagan (D-NC)
Johnson (D-SD)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)

Initially, the NRA was hesitant to enter the fray over court nominees because of its successful record in the legislative arena. Yet now that the NRA has announced its intentions to score the Sotomayor vote, a number of Democrats in the Senate, including Harry Reid, will find themselves in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to risk losing reelection or voting against Obama's Supreme Court nominee.