Manchin Might Be Without Powerful Ally in Re-Election Bid

NRA cut West Virginia Democrat off after he teamed with Toomey on background check legislation

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks with reporters before for a bipartisan meeting on immigration in the Dirksen Senate Office Building office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Jan. 27 10:36 | Sen. Joe Manchin III could have one less crucial donor in his re-election bid this year: the National Rifle Association.

When Manchin first ran for Senate in 2010 to fill the remainder of the term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, he ran an ad touting the gun advocacy group’s support.

The ad also showed him shooting a proposed cap and trade bill with a rifle.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the NRA contributed $4,950 to his campaign during that cycle. In 2012, when Manchin ran for a full term, the NRA contributed $6,500 to his campaign. 

But the month after the election, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 20 children and six adults dead, Manchin teamed up with Republican Sen. Pattrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania on legislation that would expand federal background checks for firearms for all commercial sales.

Shortly after, Manchin stopped receiving campaign donations from the NRA. In 2013 the group said the West Virginia Democrat to then-President Barack Obama and then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the “Obama-Bloomberg gun-control agenda.”

Manchin’s campaign spokesman Grant Herring expressed confidence last year before the senator announced he would run again that West Virginians wouldn’t hold that against him.

“West Virginia gun owners know that Senator Manchin, who is a life-long hunter and NRA Member, will always protect their Second Amendment rights,” Herring said in a statement. “Law-abiding gun owners know that we can support common sense background checks that keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals while also protecting Second Amendment rights.”

In June 2016, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action criticized the senator for saying that people who had been on terror watch lists, like the gunman in the Orlando nightclub shooting, wouldn't be able to obtain a firearm.

Jennifer Baker, director of public affairs for the NRA, said that it is still fairly early in the race since the filing deadline for West Virginia's senate race just passed and the state's primary is not until May.

"We have not issued grades for this race. We will issue grades so closer to the election date," she said in an email

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, praised Manchin for his actions in November, but wouldn’t say yet whether her group would support Manchin.

“We haven’t game[d] out our campaigns that far yet, but we supported Toomey when he was up in 2016,” she said in a message.

Taylor Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the group, said after Manchin’s announcement, “We’ll have more to say about our election strategy soon.”

Correction Jan. 26, 2018, 10:14 a.m. | Shannon Watts’ title was incorrect in a previous version of this story. 

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