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Dem forced from congressional race over NRA support

Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D)
Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D)Associated Press

We've been keeping a close eye on this month's congressional special election in Chicago -- the race to fill the vacancy left by former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) -- for a few reasons. For one thing, it's the first congressional race since the 2012 election. For another, it's also the first since the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But more to the point, it's also proving to be the first race in recent memory in which candidates are facing considerable pushback over their ties to the National Rifle Association. Indeed, over the weekend, this one issue helped push a leading Democratic candidate out of the race.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson dropped out of the 2nd District special Democratic primary Sunday and endorsed ex-state Rep. Robin Kelly in the contest to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.

The move, announced in a morning news release, shakes up the Democratic field just nine days before the Feb. 26 primary election.

As Rachel noted on the show on Friday, a super PAC run by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) has taken an active interest in the special election, hitting Chicago's airwaves with ads targeting Hutchinson and former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D) for having earned "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association.

The RNA's grade, Rachel noted, "is a scarlet letter" in the heavily-Democratic district, so much so that it helped push Hutchinson out of the race altogether.

If there were any doubts that the post-Newtown environment has changed, ask yourself: when was the last time a congressional candidate was forced to quit after taking heat over a positive NRA rating?

Robin Kelly, meanwhile, is eager to tout her "F" rating from the right-wing organization. Though the Democratic primary remains quite crowded, the race increasing appears to be a showdown between Kelly, who enjoys backing from Bloomberg and progressive groups like the CREDO super PAC, and Halvorson, who is scrambling to convince voters she disagrees with the NRA on a series of key issues, her previous boasts about her "A" rating notwithstanding.

The Democratic primary is a week from tomorrow, the winner of which is very likely to win the seat. Given the national implications, it's a race worth watching -- we haven't seen one like this in a long while, but it may prove to be a sign of things to come.