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The National Rifle Association is endorsing Republican presidential nominee John McCain despite differences with the Arizona senator on gun-show rules and campaign finance restrictions.

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NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and the chairman of the NRA’s political action committee planned stops Thursday in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada to talk about the move.

LaPierre said the two agree on many issues important to the group.

“He’s cast more than 60 votes in the Senate in support of the Second Amendment,” LaPierre said.

The NRA‘s Political Victory Fund has spent more than $2.3 million opposing Democratic nominee Barack Obama. The chairman of the political action committee, Chris W. Cox, says its spending in the presidential race will grow to “eight figures” by Election Day. Besides ads, encouraging battleground-state gun owners to vote will be a key focus, he said.

The PAC was running an ad Thursday in USA Today accusing Obama of waffling on gun-rights issues and challenging his statements that he supports the right to bear arms. Obama has said he respects the Second Amendment but doesn’t think it precludes “some commonsense gun laws so that we don’t have kids being shot on the streets of cities like Chicago.”

The NRA PAC’s future spending will target Obama on gun issues and start publicizing the records of McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, LaPierre said. McCain’s selection of Palin was a plus, LaPierre said.

“She’s a hunter, she’s a Second Amendment supporter and she’s a tremendous asset to the ticket,” he said.

Palin, an NRA member, received an A-plus rating from the group when she ran for governor in 2006. That compares to an NRA grade in the average range for McCain in his last Senate race. McCain isn’t an NRA member.

Palin has been an NRA booster, particularly for its education and safety programs, during her career in government. As mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she used $750 from her city campaign fund to upgrade her NRA membership.

The NRA doesn’t always endorse presidential candidates. It has backed President Bush but declined to endorse Bob Dole in the 1996 race or President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Obama has been endorsed by the American Hunters and Shooters Association, which calls itself a “mainstream group of hunters” that supports safe and responsible gun ownership.

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