After Governor Huckabee’s win in Iowa, Senator McCain’s win in New Hampshire, and Governor Romney’s performance thus far, all three have a chance to win the Michigan GOP primary. And the gun vote in Michigan could pick the winner.
Michigan’s primary has a host of issues. Aside from general Republican issues like national security and the military, Michigan’s particular circumstances motivate its Republicans to base their vote on several local issues. For example, the economy is an issue because of high unemployment and loss of manufacturing jobs.
One point not often discussed is that Michigan has a strong and robust gun culture. And Michigan’s gun owners—many of them NRA members—vote their Second Amendment rights. If one candidate could corner the Michigan gun vote, that candidate could take the January 15 primary.
Michigan is a swing state. Though it has trended Democrat in recent elections, Rs and Ds are usually close in the final vote tallies, and both parties fight for every inch of ground.
The only reason Michigan is a swing state can be summed up in one word: Detroit. The Detroit metro area is dominated by inner-city politics, with campaign focuses on crime, welfare, unemployment and education.
Consequently, once you drive out of Detroit, you’re culturally in Alabama or Indiana. The vast Michigan countryside is full of millions of largely conservative Midwestern families, with traditional values and priorities. These areas are full of Michigan Republican primary voters.
This is strong gun country. In these regions, hunting and the outdoors play a huge part in people’s lives. The folks there also prize their right to protect themselves and their families. A sizeable number of these households are NRA members and other Second Amendment supporters.
If any of the GOP candidates could make a strong play for the Michigan gun vote, it could give him the edge.
The three candidates topping the polls in Michigan all have something to run on. Mike Huckabee easily has the strongest Second Amendment record out of the three, earning top ratings and endorsements from the NRA when he was running for governor of Arkansas. Mitt Romney is an NRA member speaking in favor of gun rights, though his continued endorsement of the Clinton Gun Ban and Brady Bill on Meet the Press last month is generating criticism from many gun owners. And John McCain supported pro-gun legislation during his many years in the House and Senate, including the bill to end junk lawsuits against gun dealers, though it’s also no secret that he has crossed swords with gun-rights supporters on more than one occasion.
It’ll be interesting to see who can capture the gun vote. All three candidates have done things gun owners can applaud. While Governor Huckabee has the only perfect record, the other two would be acceptable to many gun voters.
Of course, plenty of gun owners will decide their vote on something other than the Second Amendment. Gun owners care about the same things all voters care about – national security, jobs, education, taxes, retirement, family issues.
But never underestimate how many gun owners are single-issue voters. The NRA election year slogan is “Vote Freedom First.” It was NRA members voting their gun rights that delivered West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas to George W. Bush in 2000. And John Kerry’s phony goose hunt in Ohio helped NRA push that state into the Bush column in 2004. For a couple million committed gun owners, the Second Amendment alone determines their choice for president.
And for many gun owners who are not single-issue, a candidate’s Second Amendment position can be the tie-breaker. If gun owners see things that they like in two or three of the candidates and aren’t sure which way to vote, many will go with the candidate they think is committed to protecting the Second Amendment.
So in a few days Michigan will weigh in on the presidential race. Gun owners of Michigan, this is your chance to speak out and be heard. Demand a nominee who will fight for your Second Amendment rights, and hold him to his word.
Sandy Froman is the immediate past president of the National Rifle Association of America, only the second woman and the first Jewish American to hold that office in the 136-year history of the NRA. The views expressed are her own and not that of any organization.
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