Every four years the NRA annual meeting turns into an early version of the Republican presidential primary, and last week’s meeting in Nashville was no exception.
Appearing before approximately 5,000 attendees in the ballroom of the Music City Center, and hundreds if not thousands of others watching on closed-circuit televisions scattered throughout the center, a bevy of Republican presidential hopefuls did their best to convince the audience that they not only were firm backers of gun rights, but they would also be the best choice to succeed Barack Obama in the White House.
From the perspective of backing gun rights, and the intensity of the standing ovations from the audience, the clear winners on Friday were Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—who is expected to announce his candidacy today, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—the only officially announced candidate to appear, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced with a video showing him firing a gun.
Others, like former Arkansas Gov. Mikc Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, were received warmly, but the crowd was definitely less enthusiastic about them as potential candidates.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may have had the strongest Second Amendment credentials, next to Perry, but his speech was lacking the fire of the aforementioned hopefuls and the audience response was best described as polite. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham gave the weakest speech and would be one of the darkest of dark horses, should he choose to run.
The biggest loser was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who didn’t appear at all due to what his campaign said was a scheduling conflict. But according to news reports, his absence had more to do with his affiliation with a militant pro-gun group that the NRA disapproves of.
Overall, the potential candidates told the crowd what they wanted to hear—the liberal media are not their friends; they would defend your gun rights; and they would do everything they could to defeat Hillary Clinton and put an end to Democratic control of the White House.