The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has endorsed Steve Lonegan in his bid for the U.S. Senate and will play an active role, according to Lonegan's lead strategist.
"Mr. Lonegan is the only candidate in this race who will stand against Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) for your Second Amendment rights in the U.S. Senate," the organization said in a release posted on ammoland.com.
In endorsing the Republican, the NRA-PVC gave his Democratic opponent, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, an "F" on gun owners' rights.
"Mayor Booker is President Obama’s and Mayors Against Illegal Guns founder/financier Michael Bloomberg’s dream candidate," the release said. "As Mayor, Cory Booker endorsed the Obama/Bloomberg so-called “universal” background check system, a system that would criminalize the transfer of firearms between honest, law-abiding gun owners."
While the NRA choosing Lonegan over Booker may come as little surprise, the NRA jumping into the race at all is significant, said Lonegan spokesman Rick Shaftan.
"The NRA endorsed Steve and will be active," Shaftan said. In the past, Shaftan said, he's been told that while his candidate is appealing to the gun owners' rights organization, they won't enter the race.
"We like your guy but he can't win, so we're withholding our endorsement," Shaftan said he's been told.
That they entered the race at all would suggest that the organization believes Lonegan has at least an outside shot at winning the race.
That opinion was confirmed in the eyes of some by a new Booker spot that's negative against Lonegan, which some observers interpret as a sign that Booker's hearing footsteps from the movement conservative.
Despite the tightening polls -- last week's Quinnipiac poll showed Booker with a 12 point lead, down from 20 and an "internal poll" (read: a Shaftan special) showed the race at 6 -- much of the political class still thinks the Newark mayor has little reason to worry. And yet, eyebrows are starting to raise. One political media buyer, unaffiliated with either campaign, put it like this: "It's amazing how weird the Booker campaign is. He has $9 million in the bank but is spending no money on broadcast and just doing light cable and all in South Jersey so far. He has spent less on cable than the $1.3 million that Gordon, Wagner and Eustace have spent in District 38."
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