CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The National Rifle Association is going after the gun-rights stance of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in a television ad using a speech by President Donald Trump in the moderate Democrat's home state.
Trump, at a recent appearance in Charleston, West Virginia, endorsed Manchin's opponent this fall, Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Without going into specifics about Manchin, Trump told the audience that Democrats want to take away Second Amendment rights.
In the 30-second television advertisement , the NRA says Manchin, now running for a second full six-year term, "is part of the problem." NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter said in an email the senator doesn't support gun owners' rights to defend themselves.
This is the first of many campaigns in which the NRA expects to weigh in. Other likely targets could include Senate races in North Dakota, Indiana and other red-state contests. Manchin is facing the most difficult re-election campaign of his 30-year career in a state where Trump claimed his largest margin of victory in 2016. The NRA's political arm had endorsed Manchin in the 2012 Senate race.
On Wednesday, Manchin's campaign quickly responded that the senator will continue to defend gun rights.
"West Virginia gun owners know that Senator Manchin, who is a lifelong hunter and NRA member, always has and always will protect Second Amendment rights," Manchin campaign spokesman Grant Herring said in a statement.
Earlier this year Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, revived their background check bill, which would expand checks to include purchases online and at gun shows. It had failed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
"Law-abiding gun owners in the Mountain State know that we can support common sense background checks at gun shows and internet sales that keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals while also protecting Second Amendment rights," Herring said. "Manchin and most gun owners understand that the standards at a gun shop should apply to gun sales online and at a gun show."
In 2013 Manchin voted for a bill to allow reciprocity between states for the carrying of certain concealed firearms. The bill did not get enough Senate votes for passage. Such agreements allow gun owners with permits to conceal weapons to travel to certain other states without the risk of being prosecuted.
While Herring didn't indicate whether Manchin still supports reciprocity, Hunter said Manchin opposes it. Concealed carry reciprocity is the NRA's top legislative priority and a position furthered by Morrisey.
"We are running the ad to ensure that West Virginia voters know that Joe Manchin does not support their constitutional right to self-defense," Hunter said.
Hunter called the six-figure advertisement "a substantial TV buy" and said it will run initially in television markets in Charleston and Bluefield.
Hunter said the NRA has given Manchin a "D'' rating while Morrisey, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, has an "A'' rating.
Morrisey campaign spokesman Nathan Brand declined to specify the Republican's specific stances on other gun issues.