CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - He famously fired a gun in a TV ad while boasting of an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, but U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin can no longer rely on the backing of that powerful lobby.
The West Virginia Democrat faced off against the NRA during last week's debate over his proposal to tighten background checks for gun buyers, marking his second break with a major support group since his rise from the governor's office to Capitol Hill.
Strongly opposing the measure, the NRA told lawmakers it would track how they voted and consider that when deciding how to weigh in on the midterm elections for Congress next year. Manchin took to the Senate floor to rally support for the proposal and denounce the NRA's allegations regarding its provisions before it failed to advance in a Wednesday vote.
Manchin entered the debate with a long record of support from the gun-rights group. He boasted of an 'A ' NRA rating when he successfully ran for governor in 2004 and 2008. The group had endorsed him throughout his political career, including in 2010 when he sought the Senate seat of the late Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin won that close race, during which his campaign aired a much-discussed ad that showed him shooting a rifle at environmental legislation supported by the Obama administration while touting his NRA backing.
http://bit.ly/ZxqJnQ">The NRA labeled as "misguided" the proposal that Manchin crafted with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican. The group also denied in a January statement that it was working with Manchin to develop the legislation. An NRA spokesperson did not respond to several requests by phone and email for comment for this article.
"If they said they're going to score it, they're going to score it and reduce my rating," Manchin told The Associated Press on Friday regarding Wednesday's vote. "They have to do whatever they have to do. But if you're going to be against me and target me, it would be nice if you tell me why."
The episode parallels his 2011 run-in with West Virginians for Life after he opposed an attempt to deny federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The anti-abortion group renounced its longtime support of Manchin and then actively campaigned against him when he sought a full Senate term in 2012. Manchin won re-election with nearly 61 percent of the vote, defeating the group-endorsed GOP nominee by 24 percentage points.