DURING the 2010 special U.S. Senate election in West Virginia, then-Gov. Joe Manchin ran an ad in which he used a rifle to shoot a hole in the cap-and-trade bill.
It was an effective ad that killed two birds with one stone: It helped separate Manchin from President Obama's anti-coal energy policies and allowed him to tout his "A" rating from the National Rifle Association.
"As your senator, I'll protect your Second Amendment rights," Manchin said in the ad. "That's why the NRA endorsed me."
Today Manchin's standing among some gun rights supporters is more tenuous than it was three years ago, because he has inserted himself in the middle of a fierce and emotional Washington debate over gun control.
The junior senator has learned that even having the conversation about gun control following the Sandy Hook massacre and raising the prospect of additional gun laws makes you a target.
For example, the National Association for Gun Rights is running ads against Manchin. In a news release, executive vice president Dudley Brown accuses Manchin of promoting a gun registration system.
That's a stretch.
Manchin is working on a compromise bill with three other senators: Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Manchin says his goal is to broaden the background check system. Currently, licensed firearms dealers must run background checks, but private transactions, such as gun show sales, are excluded.