The National Rifle Association has endorsed Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, bestowing its first official blessing of the 2010 midterms on a Democrat.
In a letter to Strickland's gubernatorial campaign, the NRA's political arm said it gave the incumbent an "A plus" rating -- and its coveted backing.
"As governor, you continue to be a vocal advocate in the fight to promote Second Amendment freedoms for law-abiding citizens," wrote Chris Cox, the chairman of the NRA's political wing and its chief lobbyist.
"Our members will interpret your 'A plus' rating and endorsement as an indication that you are a pro-Second Amendment, pro-hunting candidate who supports sportsmen and gun-owners on every issue. This rating and endorsement information will be communicated to NRA members prior to the November general election," he added.
Strickland is engaged in a tough contest against former GOP Rep. John Kasich, a consistent conservative but one who ran afoul of the NRA over the 1994 assault weapons ban. Both were serving in the House when the measure came up, with Strickland opposing it and Kasich in favor.
Some experts credit the NRA's Political Victory Fund with having helped the GOP take back the majority in 1994, and the group looks poised to play a big role again this year. Gun issues have yet to make an appearance on the Democratic legislative agenda, but many conservatives have used the threat of new gun control measures as a rallying cry this year.
Still, thanks to Democratic efforts to broaden their tent, the group is likely to back a significant number of Democrats, especially younger members whose seats are top GOP targets.
In 2008, the NRA endorsed Democratic Reps. Leonard Boswell of Iowa, Baron Hill of Indiana, Ike Skelton of Missouri, Travis Childers of Mississippi, Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, Charlie Wilson and Zack Space of Ohio, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, Chet Edwards of Texas and Rick Boucher of Virginia -- all of whom are top National Republican Congressional Committee targets.
If the NRA gets involved in many of the same races this year, its signature election guides, which are distributed to the group's four million-plus members shortly before Election Day, could save some members who might otherwise be on the chopping block.
This article appears in the June 19, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.