Guns Give Republicans a Reprieve From Discord

NYT FDNick Corasaniti April 10, 2015

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Good Friday morning from Washington. Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island says he’s considering running for president, and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia sees Lee’s surrender to Grant as a model for national grace.President Obama continues his trip to Panama, by way of Jamaica and Bob Marley’s house, and the friendship between Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeb Bush, the state’s former governor, may be tested in a Republican primary. In Tennessee, however, the Republican candidates and potential candidates will have plenty to agree with at the annual National Rifle Association leadership conference.

Welcome to the rare gathering of Republican presidential candidates (and those still “actively exploring”) where nearly everyone will agree with one another.

The National Rifle Association’s annual leadership conference, held on Friday in Nashville, is the biggest gathering of Republican presidential hopefuls since the Conservative Political Action Conference. This year’s convention is drawing, among others, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida; Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator; Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin; Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida; and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

All the candidates and potential candidates enjoy high ratings from the N.R.A. – none has a grade lower than an A-minus – so don’t expect much discord.

The candidates will be challenged to stand out from one another and to excite the room beyond who has a bigger gun collection. (According to The Washington Post, that honor goes to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who owns 12.)

Though little drama is expected, the event still comes with risks. The N.R.A.’s hard-line advertising tactics can sometimes rub politicians the wrong way. (Note Gov. Chris Christie’s reaction to the N.R.A. ad that mentioned President Obama’s daughters; also note that Mr. Christie is not invited to speak on Friday.) And some noncandidate attendees have proven to be political burdens for candidates. Ted Nugent, for example, caused headaches for Mitt Romney at the 2012 N.R.A. convention when he made vaguely threatening remarks against Mr. Obama.