Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, achieved a rare balance in his address at the NRA convention today. His speech concentrated on telling the crowd to stay focused on 2010 while he sounded very much like a 2012 candidate.
While he included the almost-standard hunting stories, he veered pretty far into economic topics of taxes and spending, and delivered lines that would be catnip at any Tea Party rally: “The Constitution set up a government that is a limited government . . . It’s not just anything that you can get a majority to vote for.”
When Barbour referred to being chairman of the RNC during the victories in 1994, a member of the audience yelled out, “Let’s do it again!,” triggering a round of applause. Barbour noted that “the political environment for conservatives and Republicans in spring of 2010 is better than it was in 1994. That’s just a fact . . . We can’t wait for 2012 to start taking our country back.” Barbour quoted FedEx CEO Fred Smith that ”the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” and explained that for gun owners and conservatives, the 2010 elections ought to be the main thing. “The most powerful weapon in American politics is when you say to someone who respects you, ‘I’m voting for this candidate.’ It’s more powerful than any TV ad or anything that comes in the mail.”
He was followed by a guy who looks the part of a presidential candidate, South Dakota senator John Thune. His speech was less rah-rah; he noted recent successes in the Senate for gun owners on the District of Columbia, national parks, and Amtrak trains, and addressed the seeming contradiction: “How can we have this success when we have the most liberal President in history and the most liberal Congress in history? The answer is people like you.” He, too, made a pitch for November being a choice between “more government and less freedom” and “more freedom and less government.”
Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, avoided much reference to his party, beyond “whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, one of the most important things we can do is protect our Second Amendment rights.” Instead, he turned the folksiness up to 11, talked about how his first piece of advice as a candidate was his father telling him to always stand for hunters, and said he was departing early to make his son’s ninth birthday.
Former Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell wowed the crowd moments ago: “The phrase ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ is the way the Founders could say, ‘Any knucklehead should be able to understand this.’”
The second in-person Democrat to address the audience, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, was introduced by the NRA’s Chris Cox as the right kind of Democrat: “As a Democrat, he’s an important ally reaching out on his side of the aisle. He’s not afraid to stand up to Nancy Pelosi. He said no to cap and trade, no to health care, and hell no to gun control.”
Of course, his first vote every two years is to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House.
UPDATE: I mentioned earlier today that the NRA was still reviewing the Florida Senate race. Take a look at what just arrived in my e-mailbox:
As he looks forward to attending the Southern Classic Gun And Knife Show in Orlando on Saturday, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio today announced his campaign’s 2nd Amendment Coalition. Comprised of Florida’s most respected and ardent defenders of the Second Amendment, this committee will serve to advise Rubio and educate Floridians about his strong record of protecting this constitutional right.
“The Second Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy, and its protection is essential for the safety of our citizens,” said Rubio. “I am honored to have the support of Florida’s most respected proponents and defenders of the Second Amendment, whose counsel I trust on this important issue. I look forward to working with them to ensure all Floridians know where I stand on protecting the right to bear arms that our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution.”
“Marco Rubio is a friend of all who believe the Second Amendment guarantees our citizens the constitutional right to bear arms,” said Bill Bunting the coalition’s chairman. “Marco Rubio has a strong Second Amendment record, one that should give Floridians complete assurance that he will continue to stand up for this constitutional right in the U.S. Senate. We are proud to stand with him and will work tirelessly to ensure his strong Second Amendment record is clear to all Floridians.”
Members Of The Marco Rubio For U.S. Senate 2nd Amendment Coalition Charlie Amaral (Pasco), Chairman, Friends of the NRA, West Pasco County Dennis Baxley (Marion), Former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House, NRA Defender of Freedom Award Winner, Author of the “Castle Doctrine” legislation Victor Bean (Okaloosa), Southern Classic Gun and Knife Shows Charlie Berrane (Miami), Charlie’s Armory Bill Bunting (Pasco County), Certified NRA Instructor for Concealed Weapons Permits John DiGaetano (Pasco), President, 2nd Amendment Club of AmericaBruce Dow (Dade City), Dow’s Arm RoomTed Everett (Washington) Hard Labor Creek PlantationFitzhugh K. Powell Sr. (NE Florida), Chairman, Scottish Rite Masonic Fraternity, State of Florida; Chairman, Public Education and Citizenship of the state of Florida Mike Jones (Pasco), Patron Member of the NRA, Past Chairman and Co- Chair of the Friends of NRA Senator Steve Oelrich (North Central Florida) Frank Reinstine, Jr. (Jacksonville), President, Jacksonville Skeet and Trap Club Ron Shultz (Lakeland), Member, Lakeland Rifle and Pistol Club Laurie Townsend (Palm Beach), President, Sun Coast Gun Shows Representative Charles Van Zant (Keystone Heights)In addition, over 500 grassroots 2nd amendment supporters are standing with Marco Rubio on Facebook, a group administered by Brent Shryock of Jacksonville.