Evan Vucci/AP
Donald Trump walks off stage during a rally in Canton, Ohio, last week. The state is one of five where a new NRA ad supporting Trump is scheduled to air.

New NRA ad aims to help Trump win battleground states

A new NRA-sponsored political ad and a string of campaign stops off the beaten path are part of Donald Trump’s plan to lock down rural voters whose support could hand him several battleground states.

The National Rifle Association released the latest ad in a series supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Tuesday, hoping to inspire the supporters he’s captured in rural areas and push them to the polls in November.

The 30-second ad opens with a woman sleeping in bed. The sound of shattering glass wakes her, and she jumps up and rushes to her dresser, where she grabs a phone to dial 911 and reaches to unlock a small safe holding a handgun.

“She’ll call 911,” a female narrator says. “Average response time? 11 minutes. Too late.”

Then, the safe vanishes.

“But Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self defense,” the narrator continues. “And with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can.”

The scene shifts to outside of the woman’s home, where police have surrounded the residence with yellow caution tape and sirens blare.

“Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone,” the ad concludes.

The ad is the fourth broadcast in support of Mr. Trump from the NRA, and will cost the organization $5 million.

“The stakes in this election could not be higher,” Chris Cox, the NRA-PVF chairman, said in a statement, calling Mrs. Clinton "an elitist, out-of-touch hypocrite" who "doesn’t support their Second Amendment freedoms" and would leave Americans "defenseless."

Clinton's campaign has advocated for what she calls "common sense" gun legislation, which includes expanding background checks to block domestic abusers, the mentally ill, and anyone on a no-fly list from purchasing firearms, and to limit "military-style assault weapons." Trump, on the other hand, wants to expand concealed carry laws to all 50 states, and has criticized "gun-free" zones, including schools. However, he has indicated he is open to "no fly, no buy" policies. 

Hoping to boost support for Trump in areas of rural swing states, the NRA has scheduled the ad to air in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia as well nationwide on the Dish Network and DirecTV, which cater to a large number of rural consumers.

This is where Trump has shifted his energy, as well. Rather than focusing on left-leaning cities in the battleground states, Trump is spending significant time in small towns, where he’s built rapport with disenfranchised, working class white voters that have often been overlooked by more traditional, establishment candidates.

On Tuesday night, he’ll appear in Kenansville, N.C., a town some 80 miles southeast of Raleigh with around 850 residents.

“Campaigns do generally go to bigger cities, and going to a rural area, there’s a certain psychology in going to a small town like Kenansville,” Thomas Eamon, a professor of political science at East Carolina University, told The Associated Press. “I think that symbolically could be good.”

But when it comes to wooing women voters, Trump’s campaign has faltered. Even with the latest ad, featuring a female actor and narrator, it’s hard to gauge how women, some 70 percent of whom have an unfavorable view of Trump, will respond to such an appeal.

“Advertising is not going to change the minds of a lot of people,” Erika Franklin Fowler, a professor of government and the director of the Wesleyan Media Project, tells The Christian Science Monitor. “All you really need to know about most voters is their partisanship to know who they’re going to vote for.”

The target audience of the NRA’s appeal might be women, but the content could grab the attention of men, too, Dr. Fowler says. By highlighting a single issue, the association’s goal is to tap into a voting bloc that’s invested in Second Amendment rights and push them to turnout at the polls.

When the NRA issued its first ad in support of Trump, the association chose to stay away from the topic of gun control entirely, as the initial broadcast followed the Orlando nightclub shooting that pushed many to call for strict gun laws.

But now, with less than two months until election day, the NRA’s ad is focused on hammering its single issue, hoping to drive the message home and recruit those key rural voters Trump will also pander to on the campaign trail.

“The NRA is pivoting back towards their pivotal issue,” Fowler says. “They are essentially going after voters for whom this issue is a key talking point.”

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