The shotgun wedding between Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association has been rocky, but the gun rights group is standing by its man.
Just hours after Donald Trump sparked yet another controversy with remarks that seemed, to some, to encourage violence against Hillary Clinton, the NRA went public with its biggest gift yet to the Republican nominee – a $3 million ad buy attacking Clinton as a hypocrite.
The spot – which calls Clinton “out of touch” for living under Secret Service protection while promoting gun restrictions – is the biggest single ad buy for Trump this cycle and it brings the NRA’s total spending this cycle to around $6 million.
No other major political group is spending money on the Republican nominee. Quite the contrary, the ad buy comes as Trump’s campaign struggles to stem defections as it watches some of the GOP’s most reliable supporters, donors, and elected officials abandon their nominee in response to Trump’s rhetoric and conduct on the campaign trail.
But for the NRA, support for Trump reflects a calculation inside the gun-rights community that is less about the Republican and more about stopping Clinton’s march to the White House. With Supreme Court appointments to be made, the NRA has chosen to go all-in on what it sees as a wild card over the certain antagonist.
But getting gun-rights activists to fall in line behind the Manhattan real estate mogul hasn’t been easy, and Trump’s comments on Tuesday created a new complication.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment,” Trump said at a rally. “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
Politicians across the spectrum expressed dismay while Clinton and her allies heard a threat on her life – a message that runs counter to the NRA’s commitment to law-abiding gun ownership.
The NRA jumped to Trump’s defense.
“.@realDonaldTrump is right. If @HillaryClinton gets to pick her anti-#2A #SCOTUS judges, there’s nothing we can do,” the group tweeted. “But there IS something we will do on #ElectionDay: Show up and vote for the #2A! #DefendtheSecond #NeverHillary.”
That message echoed the Trump team’s explanation; he was referring, the campaign said, to the intense commitment of gun-rights activists, whom the NRA has mobilized to defeat opponents of its agenda for decades.
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