WASHINGTON -- Billboards now seen in at least 10 key states show a prancing French poodle, its fur fancily clipped for show, wearing a pink ribbon and a blue Kerry-for-president sweater. The text says: ``That dog don't hunt.'' And: ``For 20 years John Kerry has voted against sportsmen's rights.'' As Election Day approaches, the National Rifle Association is clearing its throat, ready to roar.
By now, most of the persuading has been done and attention is turning to mobilization -- getting intense constituencies to the polls. Few are more intense than the NRA. If New England is Red Sox Nation, the NRA is a coast-to-coast nation within the nation.
The American Association of Retired Persons, with nearly 36 million members, is the nation's third largest organization (behind the Catholic Church and the American Automobile Association). The NRA has ``only'' 4 million adult members. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have smaller voting-age populations. And whereas just slightly more than 50 percent of age-eligible Americans have voted in recent elections (51 percent voted in 2000), about 95 percent of NRA members vote. Liberals who lament voter apathy should be careful what they wish for.
Each of the 4 million pays $35 in annual dues. Polls indicate that another 14 million Americans think they are NRA members and an additional 28 million think they are affiliated in some way with the NRA because of their membership in one or more of the 35,000 shooting and hunting clubs.
In the swing state of Wisconsin, which George W. Bush lost by 5,708 in 2000, but where this year he seems to be slightly ahead, there are, according to a Census Bureau survey, 591,000 hunters -- more than one-tenth of the population of approximately 5.5 million. In hotly contested Pennsylvania, there are 1.3 million hunters, about a million of whom take to the woods on opening day of deer season, when some schools and factories close.
Bill Clinton believes that advocating gun control cost Democrats 20 of the 52 House seats they lost in the 1994 elections that ended 40 years of Democratic control of the House. And appearing June 23 on ``The Charlie Rose Show,'' he said this about the defeat of Al Gore in 2000:
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