According to a Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation poll to be released Wednesday, John McCain leads Obama by a 45 to 31 percent. That’s only about half the 27-point edge respondents say they gave George W. Bush over Kerry four years ago and far short of the 65-to-15 percent margin gun owners gave to Bush over Gore in 2000.
The poll of 1,009 hunters and fishermen, conducted by Braun Research between July 10 and July 24, could be a reflection of McCain’s up-and-down relationship with gun advocates and suggests the presumptive GOP nominee has not yet persuaded a core Republican constituency.
“I don’t think John McCain has really made his case to hunters and anglers,” says Melinda Gable, communications director for the foundation, which advocates gun rights and expanded access to federal land for hunters. “Things were very different in 2004. Everybody knew that George W. Bush was from Texas, he was a rancher and that he went hunting. We haven’t seen that from McCain yet—there’s the unknown—he really needs to come out as a sportsman. Neither candidate has talked a lot about the issues that are important to us.”
The Arizona senator has a mostly pro-gun record in the Senate, opposing most restrictions on assault weapons and efforts to sue gun manufacturers. But he’s not an avid hunter and has battled the National Rifle Association over his support for background checks at gun shows and his crusade for campaign finance reform.
During a speech before the NRA in May, McCain tried to soothe sore feelings by portraying the Democrats as a common enemy.
“They claim to support hunters and gun owners,” he said. “If… Senator Obama is elected president, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk.”
Hunters surveyed showed no great affection for the Illinois senator, who favored more restrictive gun control laws as a state legislator. About half of those polled say they like McCain and would love to go on a hunt with him – compared to 29 percent who feel the same way about Obama.
“Sportsmen view John McCain as good company in the great outdoors,” said Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which helped underwrite the survey. “They’re just not sure how much fun Barack Obama would be in a duck blind.”
Fishermen are a little more Obama friendly, but favor the Arizona senator by a 44-to-31 margin.