Sen. Marco Rubio will speak at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual convention on Friday just days before he is expected to formally enter the race for the White House.
The Florida Republican is one of a slew of GOP presidential hopefuls trekking to Nashville to speak to the key group, but his appearance may be more important than those of his competitors.
Rubio is expected to announce his White House bid on Monday, and Friday’s remarks to the NRA are a last, high-profile chance for him to shore up support on the right before one of the biggest days in his political career.
Rubio has taken pains in recent years to highlight his support for the Second Amendment.
All of the GOP candidates have strong ratings from the pro-gun rights group, but Rubio’s grade was recently boosted from a B+ to an A after he introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act to roll back some of the most controversial gun laws in Washington, D.C.
The gun bill would make it easier for residents and tourists to carry concealed weapons in the District, and shoot down the city’s controversial gun registry.
The NRA updated Rubio’s rating ahead of schedule.
The new rating and his introduction of the D.C. gun bill have been noticed by the political class.
“Rubio clearly felt the need to shore up his gun credentials, particularly with his looming presidential campaign,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who served as an adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
“One of the things Rubio doesn’t want is for someone to say, ‘Jeez, Marco, you’re great on everything else, but you’re soft on guns,’” O’Connell said.