GOP leaders split on optics of rifle raffle

A rifle raffle in Rhode Island this weekend has raised eyebrows because one of the guns being raffled is an AR-15, similar to the one used in the deadly shootings in both Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

It's going to be part of the state Republican Party's annual Second Amendment celebration, but even some within the party are against it.

"I think we should look for different ways to reach voters with a message that Republicans will stand up for the Constitution, will stand up for the Second Amendment," state Senate Deputy Minority Leader Dawson Hodgson said Thursday.

Hodgson called the raffle a stunt and he said it's outside of the mainstream of voters in Rhode Island and of the Republican Party.

He's also considering a run for state attorney general. Does he think negative publicity associated with the raffle will hurt people like him running for the GOP with voters who may be undecided?

"I think it could damage our brand, but I think voters by and large look at the individual who's seeking office," Hodgson said.

Mark Smiley, the state GOP chairman, said he does not think the raffle will have any negative impact on the party as a whole, and he's standing by this weekend's event.

"It doesn't really have anything to do with the problems in Rhode Island," Smiley said. "I think it's time to move on. We need to get back to the business of the Rhode Island economy. Let's get back to the jobs. Where are the jobs?"

Smiley said the GOP has sold most of the 3,000 tickets for this weekend's raffle at $5 apiece.