Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) scored a key endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Tuesday.

The gun-rights group backed the embattled House Democrat for reelection, giving her key cover from a group that could otherwise threaten to swing the state's voters to her Republican challenger.

"The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund supports Stephanie Herseth Sandlin because she has defended the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen in South Dakota and across America," said NRA-PVF Chairman Chris W. Cox. "On November 2, I urge all South Dakota NRA Members and gun owners to vote Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for Congress.”

The NRA had long been seen as a reliably Republican group. But Democrats, in their bid over the past decade to take back the majorities in the House and Senate, recruited growing numbers of centrists on gun-rights, who avoided the NRA's large electoral footprint.

The NRA, the foremost gun-rights lobby, has long said it favors incumbents with established records on key issues. Herseth Sandlin won office in 2004, and is a leader of the centrist Blue Dog coalition.

Still, Herseth Sandlin dodged a bullet by snagging the NRA's backing, lest the group back her Republican opponent, state Rep. Kirsti Noem.

"As a hunter and a gunowner, I proudly defend the Second Amendment as an individual right," Herseth Sandlin said. "It’s a fundamental part of the South Dakota way of life, and an essential part of our economy."