Were Obama's Gun-Control Measures Timed to Help Hillary Clinton?

President Obama announced his gun-control executive actions as soon as he got back from his Hawaii vacation in January -- in time to boast of his action in his final State of the Union address Tuesday, but also just a few weeks out from the Iowa caucus and first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.

Before he even announced a word of his proposals, Hillary Clinton was singing the praises of the executive orders on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

"When I came out with my proposals for common sense gun safety measures, I did say that in the absence of congressional action, I would use executive authority to go as far as would be possible under the law and I applaud the president for taking a hard look at that and I believe he will take some actions to require more gun sellers to do background checks," Clinton said Jan. 3.

Her campaign stressed that she had "stood up to the gun lobby" throughout her career -- with swings, predictably, at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for supporting gun rights.

Sanders has slashed his deficit against Clinton in Iowa from an 18 point margin in a December Gravis poll to the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist poll within the margin of error: Clinton 48 percent, Sanders 45 percent. In the same poll in New Hampshire, Sanders leads Clinton by 4 points.

And Sanders leads Clinton in electability: the NBC poll showed Sanders beating Donald Trump by 13 points in Iowa and 19 points in New Hampshire, while Clinton led Trump by 8 points in Iowa and edged him out by 1 point in New Hampshire. Clinton lost to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), while Sanders walloped him.

"We started at national polls at about 3 percent. I think most of the recent polls have us ahead in New Hampshire," Sanders told ABC on Sunday. "I think we're gaining steam here in Iowa. I think we have an excellent chance to win here... We're doing much better with independents. We even draw a little bit better with Republicans."

But Clinton was conveniently handed a high-profile issue with which to cudgel her closest competitor in a last-minute campaign blitz -- even though Sanders came out in support of Obama's plan.

Sanders voted against the Brady Bill when he was in the House, and his votes as senator have included joining with Republicans on the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which would have guaranteed veterans due process rights in being deemed "mentally defective" by the VA and having their ability to own a gun stripped away.

He's been questioned about his position on guns on the campaign trail, and hasn't swayed. “If somebody has a gun and somebody steals that gun and shoots somebody, do you really think it makes sense to blame the manufacturer of that weapon?” he said at a July forum when asked about his vote to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. “If somebody assaults you with a baseball bat, you hit somebody over the head, you’re not going to sue the baseball bat manufacturer.”

Clinton began fresh attacks on Sanders' gun record last week, prompting his campaign to note that she "has a record of flip flops on – among other issues – gun safety."

“Today she’s attacking Bernie on guns. Eight years ago she attacked Barack Obama on guns," said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver.