I met Jeb Bush's biggest nightmare during a breakout session at March's Conservative Political Action Conference held outside of DC. In a side room, Phyllis Schlafly, the octogenarian den mother of the religious right, was explaining why attendees should be afraid of a set of national educational standards, little noticed by the national political press, called Common Core. The standards are arguably Bush's biggest political legacy. They are also the source of a rising tide of activism on the political right. One after another, conservative activists in the standing-room-only audience stood up to express their alarm. "If you are a white male boy—God forbid you're Jewish!—you're being targeted and it's very scary," fretted a woman from Texas. "Very scary."
A tea party revolutionary four years ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has bucked many of his old supporters by backing Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in McConnell's primary against Matt Bevin, a hedge fund executive backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund. Why would Paul do such a thing? He has been cagey, to say the least. "He asked me when there was nobody else in the race, and I said yes," the junior senator told Glenn Beck in February. Evidently even that was too verbose. Per the Glasgow (Ky.) Daily Times, Paul has now taken his answer off the record:
After addressing about 30 people who turned out to hear him, the senator opened the floor for questions.
One constituent asked him why he came out in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.
Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator.
Paul family political guru Jesse Benton, who is now managing McConnell's re-election campaign, told a tea party activist in a secretly-recorded conversation last year that, "between you and me, I'm sort of holdin' my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16, so that's my long vision."
One reason Paul might decide to keep his explanation private: His answer sounds a lot like Benton's.
In Montana congressional candidate Matt Rosendale's newest ad, which you can you can watch above, Rosendale aims a sighted rifle at a "government drone" and blows it away, before sending a message to the Obama administration: "Spying on our citizens—that's just wrong."
This isn't the first attempt by Rosendale, a state representative who is seeking the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Steve Daines in Congress next fall, to make nice with his state's far-right elements. In December Rosendale attended an event held by a group called Defend Rural America, whose founder, Kirk MacKenzie, called environmentalists "domestic terrorists." And although this is the first time a candidate has pretended to shoot down a drone, politicians have a long history of blowing things up in campaign ads. In 2008, Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer used a double-barreled shotgun to blast the federal Real ID law into tiny bits.
As always, Mother Jones reminds you that if you must ritually annihilate a federal policy in a campaign ad, you should at least wear safety goggles and ear plugs.
Ron Paul announced recently that he is giving away a gun because "there can be no liberty without the ability to defend it." As part of its "Defend Liberty Gun Giveaway," one lucky donor to the former Texas congressman's organization, Campaign for Liberty, will receive a DDM4 AR-15. But Paul isn't alone. More than a dozen candidates for national and local office have offered up free firearms to their supporters during the 2014 election cycle, with gifts ranging from pistols to shotguns to an AR-15 customized by the gubernatorial candidate himself. It's the year's hottest conservative campaign gimmick.
While candidates may be exploiting right-wing fears of an impending Obama firearm confiscation, the phenomenon isn't new. The tactic traces back to at least 1994—not coincidentally the last time fears of a gun-grabbing Democratic president reached a fever pitch. Surprise: All the gun-giving candidates are Republicans. Historically, these gun giveaways haven't been terribly successful. With the exception of three incumbent politicians, none of the candidates who have tried to entice voters with firearms have ever gone on to win their races.
Here's a quick history:
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), 2014: The US Senate candidate gave away a Colt AR-15 and a Colt Marine Corps 1911 Rail Pistol to two members of his email list.
South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright, 2014: Bright, who is challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), is handing out an AR-15 from Palmetto State armory to a member of his email list.
Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, 2014: Sen. Lamar Alexander's tea party challenger enticed voters to sign up for his email list by gifting a Beretta 92A1.
Steve Wagner, 2014: The Hendricks County, Indiana, sheriff candidate is raffling off four shotguns.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), 2014: The former presidential candidate and current Colorado gubernatorial contender is teaming up with Ted Nugent—who once told his rivals to "suck on my machine gun"—to hand out an AR-15 to one supporter (no donations necessary).
Tancredo for Governor
Colorado state Sen. Greg Brophy, 2014: Not to be outdone by Tancredo, his rival for the gubernatorial nomination is offering a Smith & Wesson M&P15—personally modified by the candidate, to one lucky member of his email list. "I tricked this baby out with all the MagPul stuff you can add!" he explains.
Steve French, 2014: The Alabama Republican state rep candidate offered a Remington 870 shotgun to a randomly selected supporter. Said French: "I hope the winner brings home a nice gobbler."
Conrad Reynolds, 2014: Reynolds, a retired Army colonel who is a seeking a congressional seat in Arkansas, is giving supporters wooden nickels that enter them in a lottery to win an AR-15.
Timothy Delasandro, 2014: The Texas Republican candidate for state representative gave away a Sig Sauer SIGM400 AR-15.
Mike Boudreaux, 2014: A $20 raffle ticket gave supporters of Boudreaux, a candidate for sheriff in California's Tulare County, a chance to win pistols and shotguns.
Chuck Maricle, 2014: This handgun instructor and GOP candidate for state rep gave an AR-15 to one rally attendee.
Alan Wilkins, 2014: This police sergeant's campaign to be Platte County, Nebraska, sheriff hit a snag when his gun raffle was deemed illegal.
Chris Fiora, 2014: A Maryland sheriff candidate, Fiora gave away a DPMS/Panther Arms AR-10 at a fundraiser in which he also roasted a cow.
Maryland Del. Don Dwyer, 2013: He raffled off an AR-15 and an AK-47 at "Delegate Dwyer's Gun Rights and Liberty BBQ Gun Raffle, Auction & Strategy Meeting."
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), 2013: Stockman, who advocated using liberals' tears as a gun lubricant, gave away an AR-15 on the Fourth of July to entice people to sign up for his email list.
Curtis Coleman, 2013: The Arkansas gubernatorial candidate offered up a Palmetto PA-15 from Don's Weaponry in North Little Rock to a lucky supporter.
Missouri state Sen. Brian Nieves, 2013: He gave a Sig Sauer 516 Patrol to an attendee at a $100-a-ticket fundraiser to benefit his campaign committee.
Missouri state Rep. John McCaherty, 2012: During his reelection campaign, McCaherty raffled off an AR-15 provided by the National Rifle Association. He had just one simple request of his supporters: "Do not answer any questions about the event at all."
Illinois state Rep. Josh Harms, 2012: Harms, who bragged to a local newspaper that he once shot a bear in Canada, sold $5 raffle tickets for a chance to win a revolver, shotgun, or rifle.
Dean Allen, 2009: The candidate for South Carolina adjutant general, which manages the state national guard, gave away an AK-47 at a "machine gun social" fundraiser. "I like to tell people I'm not the country club conservative," Allen told the Greenville News. "I'm the machine gun one."
Peter James, 2007: The Maryland GOP congressional candidate announced his intent to give away 100 pistols and a few machine guns. Reporters who showed up for the big event were disappointed to discover the weapons were in fact water guns.
Mike Curtiss, 2000: Supporters of the downstate Illinois congressional candidate who bought $5 raffle tickets got a chance to bring home an AR-50 dubbed the "Rod Blagojevich Special," in honor of the then-Chicago congressman, who was pushing to have the gun outlawed. "I see the humor in this," Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times. "God love the guy. It's OK. With all due respect to [Curtiss], he is nuts about guns." Curtiss also gave away a $400 box of cigars.
Michael Concannon, 2000: The North Carolina state Senate candidate raffled off a gun to fund his campaign.
Mark Detro, 2000: This Oklahoma Republican congressional candidate scrapped plans to offer guns in exchange for campaign donations—and a planned raffle—after discovering it violated state gambling laws.
C. Ronald Franks, 1994: The Maryland Senate candidate sold $5 raffle tickets for a chance to win an AR-15.
Randy Linkmeyer, 1994: The California state Senate candidate held a "Family Firearm Safety Day" to give guns and ammunition to a select few supporters. Kids were welcome.
Depending on where you stand, this is either the best piece of political performance art of the 2014 election or the worst. Or maybe it's both. Supporters of embattled Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging longtime incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in the June primary, have composed this charming jingle, asking Cochran to "please come home." These kinds of supporter-generated videos can often be tacky and amateurish, or woefully off-message. But this—this is art. Watch:
Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
You've been there way too long,
We sent you up there, to do what's right,
But now you done us wrong
Remember that crazy health care, that gun control,
You voted for was oh so wrong,
Well, it's really a shame,
And you're partly to blame,
Thad Cochran won't you please come home.
Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
Our party's gone off track,
With Chris McDaniel, we've got a chance,
To bring our party back,
So pack your suitcase, and grab your hat,
Then catch a ride and get here fast,
We know you did your best,
But it's time for a rest,
We hope this term be your last!
Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
You're spending way too much,
You've raised the ceiling of debt so high,
This country can't catch up...
And your pork barrel, is filled so full,
I think that it just may bust!
Please hear our call, as we plead one and all,
Thad Cochran, won't you please come home.