It's not a big surprise, but today's formal endorsement of John McCain by the National Rifle Association could help him among the white working class voters who could determine the winner in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania that could hold the key to the White House.
NRA leaders are traveling today to Pittsburgh, Pa., Springfield, Mo., Colorado Springs, Colo. and Reno, Nev. for a series of press conferences announcing the endorsement.
"John McCain has more than two decades of pro-gun and pro-hunting votes in Congress. He has stood time and again to preserve our Second Amendment freedom and our rich hunting heritage," NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a statement.
But the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence notes that the NRA in 2001 called McCain "one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment" after he pushed to require criminal background checks at gun shows.
Instead, the NRA highlighted McCain's votes against handgun restrictions, mandatory waiting periods to buy guns, national gun registration, and against bans on hunting ammunition. It also noted that McCain's running mate Sarah Palin is a hunter, gun owner, and NRA life member. And it bashed Democrat Barack Obama's record on gun rights.
"NRA members and gun owners will not allow Barack Obama to hide his radical record of opposition to our constitutional rights," said Cox. "Obama has voted to make self-defense with a firearm in the home illegal, has voted to ban the most commonly owned hunting shotguns, has voted to ban commonly owned hunting ammunition, and has supported a 500% tax increase on guns and ammunition. We will remind voters every single time he pretends that his anti-gun record doesn't exist."
Obama's camp disputes that characterization of his record and his stands on gun issues. When a divided US Supreme Court in June threw out the handgun ban in Washington, D.C., he sought a middle ground, saying he supports the right to gun ownership, but also said local communities should be able to enact "common-sense" regulations.
The NRA's Political Victory Fund has already spent more than $2.3 million opposing Obama, and plans to spend more than $10 million before Election Day. The NRA endorsed President Bush, but declined to endorse Republican Bob Dole in 1996 race or President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
The NRA today bought a full-page ad in today's USA Today that tries to piggyback on a mailer that Hillary Clinton sent out during the Democratic primaries that mentions Obama's comment at a San Francisco fund-raiser that some small-town voters bitter about their economic troubles "cling to guns or religion."
"Hillary was right: You can't trust Obama with your guns," says the ad.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.