Polls show tepid support for McCain among gun owners

By Chad D. Baus

Politico.com is reporting that, while few hunters are pining for a day in the woods with Barack Obama, a surprising number of sportsmen say they’ll vote for him – far more than backed Al Gore or goose-hunting John Kerry.

Citing a Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation poll released Wednesday, the Politico story notes that John McCain leads former Joyce Foundation board member Barack Obama by 45 to 31 percent. The story notes this is only about half the 27-point edge respondents say they gave George W. Bush over Kerry four years ago and far short of the 65-to-15 percent margin gun owners gave to Bush over Gore in 2000.

From the story:

The poll of 1,009 hunters and fishermen, conducted by Braun Research between July 10 and July 24, could be a reflection of McCain’s up-and-down relationship with gun advocates and suggests the presumptive GOP nominee has not yet persuaded a core Republican constituency.

“I don’t think John McCain has really made his case to hunters and anglers,” says Melinda Gable, communications director for the foundation, which advocates gun rights and expanded access to federal land for hunters. “Things were very different in 2004. Everybody knew that George W. Bush was from Texas, he was a rancher and that he went hunting. We haven’t seen that from McCain yet — there’s the unknown—he really needs to come out as a sportsman.”

The Arizona senator has a mostly pro-gun record in the Senate, opposing most restrictions on assault weapons and efforts to sue gun manufacturers. But he’s not an avid hunter and has battled the National Rifle Association over his support for background checks at gun shows and his crusade for campaign finance reform.

Clearly, these results are more reflective of McCain's problems with gun owners than anything Obama has done to separate himself from his anti-gun record. And yet, with more than twice the number of those polled saying they will vote for Obama than those who voted for Al Gore in 2000, it is clear that work remains to inform gun owners of Obama's dangerous anti-gun past.

To that end, and recognizing the impact an Obama presidency could have on Supreme Court nominees, the National Rifle Association has announced that it will spend about $15 million to ensure that gun owners are aware of the threat that Barack Obama truly is to the Second Amendment.

But as bad as Obama is on guns, this poll shows that a majority of gun owners are still struggling with the "lesser of two evils" argument.

As the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation's spokesperson notes, "neither candidate has talked a lot about the issues that are important to us.

Indeed, as Presidential candidate Bob Barr recently pointed out, for example, both McCain and Obama have been silent in the face of the District of Columbia's current defiance of the United States Supreme Court's ruling on the Second Amendment.

When, as the poll indicates, more hunters and fishermen would be willing to hunt with him than vote for him, it is clear that John McCain's days spent flirting with the gun ban lobby as he sought to forge his reputation as a "maverick Republican" are coming back to haunt him.

Chad Baus is a Member of the Fulton County, OH Republican Central Committee and the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman and Northwest Ohio Chair.

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