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Sen. Manchin counters gun lobby: NRA 'has lost its way'

The once rosy relationship between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the National Rifle Association has turned frosty. 

The once rosy relationship between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the National Rifle Association has turned frosty.

The moderate Democratic lawmaker was co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that failed earlier this year in the Senate that would have expanded background checks in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. But now, five years before he’s up for re-election, the pro-gun rights group is up with an ad targeting their onetime ally, spending $100,000 on the buy.

The ad alludes to Manchin’s infamous 2010 campaign spot where the then-governor shot through a copy of President Obama’s health care law. “Now, Manchin is working with President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Concerned? You should be,” the NRA intones.

Manchin isn’t up for re-election until 2018, and the popular former governor netted an easy 24-point win last time, even as President Obama lost the Mountaineer State by nearly 27 points. But in his own statement, Manchin lost no time blasting his former ally, saying the gun group that was once willing to work with both sides has become a partisan organization.

“The Washington NRA could spend $100 million on ads against me; it still won’t make what they say true. If they were honest with their members they would see that my bill not only protects 2nd Amendment rights, it enhances and strengthens them,” Manchin said in a statment.

“Unfortunately, the NRA leadership in Washington has lost its way and is more concerned about political power than gun rights and gun safety,” the Democrat continued. “I am the same proud gun owner and NRA member that I have always been, and I believe that criminal and mental background checks are a commonsense approach to protect our neighbors and children without infringing on our 2nd Amendment rights. I think most NRA members agree with me.”

Manchin used to have a good relationship with the pro-gun rights group--not just receiving their endorsement in his Senate run but even getting the organization’s input when he and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) were drafting the bill.