GOP hopefuls locked and loaded at NRA convention

It's high stakes at the annual National Rifle Association's convention Friday. Polls show half of all Republican primary voters own handguns and say they couldn't vote for someone who doesn't share their view on gun rights.

Almost every Republican hopeful will be there with a couple of interesting exceptions. Invitees include a list looking to rally the base, and their messages could translate to major support from an organization with strong influence over its members, CBS News' Nancy Cordes reports.

Even before the convention, the hunt for NRA support had already started. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas mentioned gun rights the day he announced his presidential bid.

"Imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding Americans," Cruz said.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a bill repealing D.C.'s gun control laws in March.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's latest book has the world "guns" right in the title: "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy."

They and nine other GOP hopefuls will get 10 minutes each to make their case to the NRA and, by extension, its five million members.

"The key to the NRA is not necessarily the financial capability that it has, which is significant, but when they send out a letter, an email, a telephone call, people pay attention, they respond and they vote," CBS News contributor and Republican strategist Frank Luntz said.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is mulling a second White House bid, made a video for the NRA's 2013 conference. In it, he fires a semi-automatic rifle at targets.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wasn't invited. He has an "A" rating from the NRA, but leaders are miffed that he supports a competing group that bills itself as more conservative.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was snubbed too. In 2013, he criticized the group for an ad that mentioned the Obama girls.

"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the ad said.

"The idea that we are so early in this primary process and an organization as important and powerful as the NRA, the idea that they would say no to you, that you can't even attend, if I'm Governor Christie, that would concern me," Luntz said.

Christie has a "C" rating from the NRA. He signed a New Jersey law tightening gun restrictions. All of the hopefuls have "A" ratings except for Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump because they have never held office, so there is no political record to grade.