Image: Ted Strickland
Paul Vernon  /  AP
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly in Columbus.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/14/2010 12:55:06 PM ET 2010-06-14T16:55:06

The National Rifle Association made its first general election endorsement of the 2010 midterm cycle Monday, backing Ohio's incumbent Democratic governor over a Republican former congressman.

The NRA announced its backing of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in a letter to members that bestowed the gun-rights organization's top rating on Strickland and endorsed him in his contest against Republican John Kasich, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, Strickland accepted the endorsement Monday at a sporting goods store in Proctorville, near the Ohio-West Virginia border.

Strickland received the NRA's support in 2006 during his primary campaign, but the group remained neutral during the general election because both nominees were proponents of gun rights.

The endorsement could help Strickland widen the narrow margin he has gained in recent polls.

Kasich, a former congressman and Fox News commentator, has maintained a close race with the incumbent governor.

Kasich, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 2001, voted in favor of the Clinton assault weapons ban in 1994 and supported bills containing restrictions on gun shows and handgun sales. That voting record led to the NRA to give Kasich an 'F' grade during his tenure in Congress.

In reaction to the endorsement, the Ohio Republican Party has begun highlighting the inconsistencies of Strickland's voting record on gun laws.

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