WASHINGTON (CNN) - The National Rifle Association endorsed Republican Bob McDonnell in the Virginia governor's race on Monday - an about-face for the gun rights group, which backed Democrat Creigh Deeds over McDonnell when the two men last faced off in a statewide race four years ago.
Deeds, who had interviewed for the NRA endorsement along with McDonnell, quickly countered by announcing that he had earned the backing of the Virginia Firefighters Association, which represents roughly 6,500 paramedics and firefighters throughout the commonwealth.
But the NRA endorsement is likely the headline-grabber of the day, due to the state's evolving relationship with firearms and the NRA's change-of-heart about the candidate it once supported.
Deeds, a state Senator from rural Bath County and a longtime supporter of gun rights, won the NRA's backing in 2005 when the two men were running for Attorney General. McDonnell won that race by just 323 votes, the narrowest margin of victory ever in a Virginia statewide race.
Asked what had changed in the four years since his group endorsed Deeds, the NRA's chief lobbyist Chris Cox said Deeds is a different candidate than he was in 2005. He pointed to Deeds' decision to drop his opposition to so-called "gun show loophole," which permits vendors to sell firearms without background checks. Cox said Virginia gun owners were "shocked and disappointed" by the Deeds' transformation on the issue. Deeds has said he changed his mind on the loophole after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
McDonnell told reporters he was "delighted" to have the NRA seal of approval, which he touted as a sign that his campaign is attracting voters in the commonwealth's rural areas.
Cox praised McDonnell for being one of 31 state attorneys general in 2008 to sign an amicus brief supporting the right to bear arms in the landmark District vs. Heller case. He said the NRA's 120,000 paid members in Virginia will go to bat for McDonnell in November.
Losing the support of the NRA could be a blessing in disguise for Deeds, who has struggled to excite voters in liberal northern Virginia, the populous electoral battleground where voters are less in tune with the hunting and fishing traditions cherished in other parts of the commonwealth.
Still, his campaign promised that Deeds remains "a committed supporter of the Second Amendment" and pointed to his 'A' rating from the NRA.
"While it appears that his work on closing the gun show loophole following the Virginia Tech tragedy may have lost him this endorsement, Creigh looks forward to working with the NRA as governor to continue to protect our Second Amendment rights," Deeds spokesman Jared Leopold said in a statement.
Ah, the NRA. Originally founded to improve marksmanship, now promoting partisanship and gun mayhem. Come on America, give blood!
The NRA is a domestic terrorist organization and should be treated accordingly.
Cool, but who does ACORN, the SEIU, the NEA, Code Pink, Planned Parenthood, the GLBT community, PETA, NOW, the ACLU, etc support? I'm betting the liberal! I take the NRA anyday . Thank you
The NRA, in a very, very unfortunate circumstance, is aligning its corporate self with the extreme right wing. These desparate fringers seek what-the downfall of our government? A return to middle kingdon anarchy and chaos, where only they will have weapons?
What c**p. Give it up. If Deeds was strong enough to support your members' wholesome sport last time, what has he done to lose that vote? Lie and cheat? You've got the wrong culprit-
Oh for crying out loud.
The NRA is the radical right along with the republicans.
If one ever thought they would support a Democrat, then
you have had your head in the sand.
Truly sad indeed, that in this Country an organization would abandon its support of a political candidate because the man is against murder!
I don't understand. If Deeds was opposed to the gun show loophole before, then the NRA likely would not have supported him, and he would not have changed that after the Virginia Tech massacre (unless he was in favor of gun-related massacres). I think he was in favor of the loophole before and changed that stance.
The political power of te NRA is an American outrage. Hunting and sports activities are fine, but these guys have gone bonkers. They are turning this country back into the wild west, and I for one do not like it. There is no reason to sell assault weapons or pack heat in a National Park.
I don't understand why an endorsement from the NRA hate-mongers is considered so valuable. I guess there are enough uninformed folks out there who would blindly vote for a candidate who is endorsed by them.
Whatever pretense the NRA ever had about being non-partisan just flew out the window. What sort of non-gun-issue nonsense caused them to do this?
So, the gun-toters are supporting the potty mouth. Big surprise.
I guess that's why I've been seeing Chuck Norris NRA commercials.
Does the NRA still think Obama's taking their guns away, even after he made it legal to carry in national parks? Ole Murt down at the bait shop thinks Obama stole his gun, but we think he might have left it on top of his truck and druv off that way.
Anyone that thinks it's ok to sell guns at shows with no background check is an uninformed extremist goon that has no grip on today's reality.
The NRA losers did this guy a favor.
An endorsement by the NRA is a good thing?
What a shame, her international premier! Actually probably a good thing, the US will not be embarassed with the world press finding out we potentially had a bimbo only a heart beat from the presidency!!!
Of course the gun toteing trailer trash is going to endorse the GOP, big surprise. LOL
AND why is this surprising to anyone? The NRA wants a PUPPET to control and yank around. I think the NRA has been "smelling" too much of themselves.
Deeds should be saying "good riddance". If the NRA wants a puppy, they sure got one in McDonnel.
As long as they do not cock and fire the weapon, it should be fair constitutionally.
The NRA is a Republican-right-wing association, they would not back a Democrat! Is this really news?
No surprise.. they are always for the filthy GOP...
- I approve of Obama and have no guilt in saying I am Black!!
So libs, at some point both of the major candidates have been endorsed by the NRA. Kind of a stalemate, don't you think?
The NRA supports each amendment to the Bill of Rights - not just the odd numbered one.
What! The NRA is supporting another right-wing demagogue! And that's news? McDonnell should stick by his guns (tee hee) and tell Marion Hammer to get back in the kitchen where she belongs.
CNN is obsessed. What is the news here? Seriously, what's the news?