After early misfire, NRA gives Kemp a late endorsement

The National Rifle Association endorsed Brian Kemp as the only candidate for governor "who can be trusted to protect our constitutional right to self-defense," months after spurning him for another Republican rival.

The NRA had earlier backed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the GOP primary, triggered by his decision to oppose a jet-fuel tax break aggressively sought by Delta shortly after the Atlanta-based airline severed a marketing relationship with the NRA.

It was considered a major coup for Cagle at the time, as he was racing to outduel Kemp and other opponents on Second Amendment issues – and was angling for a knockout blow to avoid a runoff.

At the time, Kemp had worked furiously to urge the NRA to remain neutral in the contest, even warning in a letter that the group was "getting played" by false promises from Cagle and his allies.

But the NRA had little influence on the GOP nomination. Cagle fell well below the majority-vote he needed to stave off a head-to-head matchup against Kemp. And though NRA president-elect Oliver North campaigned with Cagle, he was vastly overshadowed days later by President Donald Trump's late endorsement of Kemp.

Kemp seems sure to try to use the NRA's support to help energize conservative supporters drawn to his promises of expanding gun rights and a July 4 sales tax holiday on firearms and ammunition.

Expect his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, to seek to make the most of the endorsement as well.

The former House minority leader and other Democrats have broken with decades of conventional strategy in Georgia by supporting new gun restrictions. And she often boasts her poor ratings from the NRA were the only Ds and Fs that ever earned her parents' praise.