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Leaked audio: Republican senator in key race joked about Hillary Clinton being shot

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Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

CNN’s Manu Raju has a new report that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who’s currently locked in a tight reelection battle, made a very tasteless joke about Hillary Clinton to campaign volunteers this Saturday.

The apparently secretly recorded audio — posted in full on YouTube — shows Burr joking that when he recently saw a picture of Hillary Clinton in the cover of the National Rifle Association’s magazine American Rifleman, he was “shocked” that “it didn’t have a bullseye on it.”

Nothin’ made me feel any better than — I walked into a gun shop I think yesterday in Oxford. I think there was a copy of Rifleman on the counter. It’s got a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it. I was a little bit shocked at that — it didn’t have a bullseye on it. [laughter] But at the bottom right, it had everybody in federal office in this particular state that they should vote for. So let me assure you, there’s an army of support out there right now for our candidates.

Burr already apologized in a statement to CNN, but the gaffe is certain to make uncomfortable headlines for him in the final days of his campaign, in which he’s being challenged by former state Rep. Deborah Ross.

He is of course not the only well-known Republican to joke about gun owners wanting to shoot Hillary Clinton this year — back in August, Donald Trump quipped at a rally that maybe “Second Amendment people” could have a way of stopping a President Hillary Clinton from appointing judges.

Raju also points out that the audio also reveals Burr has become the latest Republican senator — after John McCain and Ted Cruz — to promise to fight to prevent Hillary Clinton from appointing anyone to the Supreme Court, should she win the presidency.

This revelation, of course, will greatly strengthen the hand of Democrats who’d like to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, if the party takes back the Senate. Head over to CNN for more.

North Carolina is one of seven or so races expected to determine Senate control

The battle for the Senate, which Republicans currently hold by a 54-46 margin, has come down to six or seven key races — and Burr’s is one of them.

His challenger, Deborah Ross, has never run statewide before, but she’s had experience serving in the North Carolina General Assembly, and (as Burr never tires of pointing out) she used to head the state’s ACLU chapter.

And Burr has run what’s been viewed as a lackadaisical campaign — Roll Call reported in September that many Washington Republicans viewed his preparation for the race as “lazy.”

Though the race has clearly been close for some time, Burr has appeared to have a slight edge. He currently leads Ross by 1.7 percentage points in the HuffPost Pollster average and just 1 point in the RealClearPolitics average — meaning he typically runs a couple of points ahead of Donald Trump, who’s currently trailing Hillary Clinton in polls of the state.

It’s unclear whether Burr’s gaffe will be sufficient to change that, but it’s certainly not the headline he hoped to see eight days before an election that’s been close so far.