The ad is called “Kander Kastle.” It opens with a woman sleeping in bed. An intruder is outside her home. He breaks in, through the front door. A narrator intones: “You have the right to protect your home with a firearm, but liberal politician Jason Kander voted against your right.’”
Kander, a Democrat, and former member of the Missouri House of Representatives, is challenging Senator Roy Blunt in the upcoming election. The National Rifle Association has spent nearly $1 million to ensure he doesn’t win — more than on any Congressional race outside Ohio.
The Trace, in collaboration with Open Secrets, is closely tracking gun lobby expenditures in this election cycle. The gun group, as we have previously reported, has gone almost completely all-in for Republican candidates, and appears intent on trying to influence a handful of down-ballot contests that could decide control of the Senate.
So far, the NRA has spent over $11 million this election cycle; roughly $6.5 million has been disbursed in support of Donald Trump, and the rest has gone toward Congressional contests. In down-ballot elections, it has invested most heavily in the Ohio Senate race between Republican Senator Rob Portman and his Democratic challenger, Ted Strickland. The NRA has spent almost $2 million in support of Portman.
The group is almost certain to significantly ramp up its ad buying in the weeks to come.
Compared to the gun rights organization, spending on federal elections by gun control advocacy groups is miniscule. Americans for Responsible Solutions has spent, in total, just over $1.5 million — less than the NRA has spent on the Strickland race alone. Everytown for Gun Safety has spent less than $100,000, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
Kander, who is 35, served one term in the Missouri House, between 2009 and 2013. He then ran successfully to be Missouri’s Secretary of State; in that race, the NRA gave him an F grade and endorsed his opponent.
On Thursday, Kander responded to the NRA’s ad of the home break-in with one of his own. In a 30-second spot, he assembles an assault-style rifle while blindfolded, using the skills he acquired when he was in the Army, serving in Afghanistan. He says that his unique experience informs his respect for the power of firearms, which is why he supports background checks so terrorists can’t get their hands on them.
“I approved this message,” Kander says, “because I’d like see Senator Blunt do this.”
Blunt, a first-term Senator who spent 14 years in the House of Representatives, has an A rating from the NRA, as well as the organization’s endorsement. Most of the $900,000 it has spent so far went to finance ads attacking Kander. According to Open Secrets, the ad campaign anchored by the “Kander Kastle” commercial cost the NRA $654,000.
The nonpartisan Cook Report considers the Blunt race to be a competitive one, but one that is still leaning in the incumbent’s favor.
The NRA is also investing in ads to prop up the candidacy of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who faces Rep. Patrick Murphy, an advocate for tighter gun restrictions.
Cook considers the race in Florida to be an especially close contest. In early September, the NRA spent almost $424,000 on pro-Rubio mail. Rubio, a failed presidential candidate, has worked hard over his first term as Senator to court the NRA. As a Florida state legislator, he left office with a B+, primarily because he offered only tepid support for a pro-gun bill on one occasion.
Since entering the Senate, Rubio has voted against the expansion of background checks and been a marquee speaker at NRA events. Over Christmas, he made headlines when he purchased a handgun.
“If ISIS were to visit us or our communities at any moment,” he said, “the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them or from a criminal or anyone else who seeks to do us harm.”
Rubio now has an A+ rating from the NRA.
[Photo: Missourians for Kander Youtube]