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Richelieu: Cease Fire

10:38 AM, Apr 29, 2008 • By RICHELIEU
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One of the low points in the often keel-scraping Mitt Romney for President campaign was the day when some junior staffer had the none too bright idea of signing poor Romney up for a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association. Romney, who previously had done most of his big game hunting in the M&A jungle armed only with a Mont Blanc fountain pen, thereby endured endless ridicule for his newfound NRA enthusiasm and more tellingly, was burdened throughout the campaign by the NRA moment as a damning symbol of his alleged need to pander and please.

Apparently the McCain people somehow missed this blunder because I see in the Novak inside dope column that McCain's campaign has decided to send him to an NRA convention in Louisville.

It is a foolish move. Now don't get me wrong. Your Cardinal is the biggest pro-gun cleric since Muqtada al Sadr. If my Huguenot enemies ever attack this Cathedral, they will meet a hail of incoming lead that would make Yosemite Sam blush. But the larger point here is politics and symbolism.

There is something about the world of gun love and NRA conventions that is absolute kryptonite to moderate voters. As bad GOP karma goes, gun fetishism punches way above its' weight. Not the gun rights issue mind you, which is a winner that cuts our way, but gun OPTICS. Like the perception one is sucking up to the NRA.

There was probably a meeting at McCain HQ and somebody said, "Hey, that nutty Obama is offending white rural Democrats and blue collar guys with his Dukakis rap on guns, so let's exploit this and go the NRA convention!" Murmurs of approval all around. But it is the wrong move. McCain is already a second amendment guy. He doesn't need to chase the gun vote with clumsy appearances that will in turn scare off moderate voters. McCain's victory formula in this awful GOP year is simple: if McCain is acceptable to the white independents and Democrat moderates who will inevitably fall off Obama, he will win. Gun optics are a jarring tuba blast that will powerfully disrupt this reassuring and winning McCain Sonata.

Team McCain needs to remember that despite a few "tours" their candidate is vulnerable and far from defined as the centrist he truly is and needs to be to win. McCain has never been a down the line NRA supporter, but his record is much stronger on gun rights issues than Obama or Clinton. McCain already visited an NRA national convention last year during the primary season. That was plenty. The Second Amendment issue can and will work fine for McCain, but waving a blunderbuss at an NRA convention will get McCain nothing he doesn't already have and could cost him votes he needs.