(CNN) – Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, picked up the support of the National Rifle Association Monday, offering voters a reminder of his culturally conservative views as he battles Republican John Kasich in a difficult re-election bid.
It's the NRA's first general election endorsement of the 2010 cycle.
"Our members will interpret your 'A+' 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," said Chris Cox, the chairman of the NRA's Political Victory Fund, in a letter to Strickland provided to CNN by a source familiar with the decision.
In backing Strickland, the NRA cited his vote while in Congress against the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Kasich, also in Congress at the time, voted for the legislation and earned an "F" rating from the NRA that year, though his ratings from the group have since climbed out of the cellar.
Strickland has a narrow lead over Kasich according to recent polling.
The endorsement is not a major surprise given Strickland's lifetime "A" rating from the NRA. Earlier this year, the group described Kasich's record on firearms as "mixed."
The gun rights group did not take sides in the 2006 governor's race between Strickland and his GOP opponent Ken Blackwell - but they did back Strickland in his Democratic primary.
The endorsement is the second bit of good news in recent days for Strickland as he campaigns against the headwind of a volatile political climate and his state's unsettling jobless rate.
On Friday, Strickland's campaign announced having $7.7 million on hand for the campaign – a $2 million advantage over Kasich. Both campaigns collected roughly $1.3 million during the most recent fundraising period.
Updated at 9:15 a.m. ET with response from the Kasich campaign:
"John is a strong Second Amendment supporter, is a gun owner, and is proud to have received NRA support in the past," said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.
The NRA better pull it's head out of it's butt. Strickland's been a disaster for this state. The NRA needs to look at the big picture, and if they keep supporting Democrats just because they MAY be pro-gun long enough their Second Amendment rights may disappear.
He also has the Mexican drug cartel vote as they are also huge believers in the Second Amendment's right that they have unlimited access to American military level weaponry.
liberals like me love to hate them, but at least myself, can't entirely say they are not important
I grew up with guns and think it was important part of my childhood
Strickland stinks. I could care less that the NRA endorses him. I'm a Republican AGAINST guns. GO JOHN!
Strickland is a good man. Kasich is a crook.
I am from a family of hunters and none of them are NRA members. The NRA is way too extremists for the average hunter, unless you want to hunt with an assault rifle....
just what america needs more guns
Whoopie. An endorsement from United Gun Nutz is like a booger hanging from your nose: You own it, but you don't really want anyone to notice!
Assault guns on the public streets is a retarded concept from a group that is so unnecessarily paranoid that they make very little sense to normal, intelligent Americans.
"The NRA needs to look at the big picture" – Ben points out ...
But they never do! They are one issue voters: much like Mike Huckabee who is slamming Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels over his recent comments suggesting the next president should focus exclusively on fiscal problems at the expense of social issues. "Let me be clear…the issue of life and traditional marriage are not bargaining chips nor are they political issues," says Pastor Huck: Guess what? Many Americans are able to look at the big picture: banning gay marriage doesn't create jobs or put food on the table.