Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is becoming a lightning rod in the battle for the Senate, but on Tuesday it was Alison Lundergan Grimes who best turned the issue around for a Democratic candidate.
On Thursday other Senate Dems tried to distance themselves from the VA chief, stressing the need to let investigations play out before placing blame. But Republicans eyeing a GOP majority are eager to tie Democrats in tough races to Shinseki and the Obama administration.
Though McConnell’s campaign issued a statement shortly after, commending Grimes for having “joined Sen. McConnell in calling for a change in management at the VA,” the Senate minority leader had never outright called for the secretary’s resignation to begin with.
Grimes’s move gave her the clearest opportunity yet to distance herself from President Obama and argue she’s shown leadership on an issue.
Another Democratic candidate, Rick Weiland in South Dakota, also told The Hill he believes Shinseki should step down, but that's a far less important race for national Dems and the first one that's likely gone for them to hold on to.
Other vulnerable Democratic incumbents were more reluctant than Grimes. Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) didn’t call for Shinseki to step down, only demanding the situation be fixed. Though their position aligns them with their party, it also gives Republicans an opportunity for offense.
Even before most Democrats had weighed in, the National Republican Senatorial Committee was hammering the party on the issue in its Thursday morning newsletter.
“It's yet another egregious sign of an inept and incompetent government that has been run by Democrats for the last five years,” the committee wrote.
GREEN GROUP GIVING $3M TO CANDIDATES: The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund said it has raised more than $3 million to donate to candidates in this election cycle as parts of its GiveGreen program.
GA-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) has endorsed fellow Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) in his runoff race against businessman David Perdue (R). Westmoreland, who doesn’t have a college degree, had already been critical of Perdue’s comments criticizing former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) for not having one.
IA-SEN (OPEN): Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) is heading back to Iowa for the first time since his 2012 run to stump with state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who’s pulled ahead in her Senate primary. Romney had already endorsed Ernst.
KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, putting her out ahead of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who hasn't explicitly called for him to step down. Meanwhile, Senate Majority PAC, a major national Democratic group, has reserved $550,000 for two weeks of advertising in the state.
NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): A new ad is hitting Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown (N.H.) for reportedly lobbying to kill the energy efficiency bill of his opponent, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Meanwhile, Brown launched his own ad, a positive spot that plays up his ties to the Granite State.
OR-SEN (MERKLEY): According to The Oregonian, voter returns indicate Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby’s levels of support dropped steeply in the last few days before the primary, after news reports detailed allegations of “stalking” and “harassment” against her from her exes.
VA-SEN (WARNER): Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced he’s raised more than $1.4 million since the beginning of April, while his opponent, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R), announced he’d raised $3 million since jumping into the race in January, meaning he’d brought in $800,000 in the same period since he’d raised $2.2 million by the end of March.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
GOP TOPS DEMS IN ENTHUSIASM: Republicans show slightly more enthusiasm than Democrats about the midterm elections in November, according to a CBS poll released Wednesday night.
YGN MAKES MAJOR FALL AD BUY: Young Guns Network, a national Republican group with ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), has reserved $2.7 million in fall airtime in seven competitive House districts.
CA-17 (HONDA): Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) now has slightly more money in the bank than his primary challenger. Both Honda and Ro Khanna (D) have more than $1 million, as Khanna’s very high spending rate to make it through the all-party primary — more than $2.6 million — has erased his cash advantage in the race.
FL-16 (BUCHANAN): Former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) has more than $1 million in his old campaign account and is not slamming the door on a future run, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
GA HOUSE: The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is throwing its support to two Georgia House candidates, endorsing Georgia state Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R), who's facing off against libertarian-leaning former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) for Rep. Phil Gingrey's (R-Ga.) seat, and Dr. Bob Johnson (R), who's in the runoff for Rep. Jack Kingston's (R-Ga.) seat.
IL-12 (ENYART): Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost (R) released a poll showing him leading Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.).
MI-11 (BENTIVOLIO): Three Mississippi Republican Party vice chairmen flipped their support to businessman David Trott in the GOP primary over incumbent Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich).
NY-11 (GRIMM): Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) still used his undercover name from the FBI even after he left the agency and was serving in Congress, according to the New York Daily News.
NY-13 (RANGEL): In a New York Times/NY1/Siena College Poll, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) takes 41 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, while state Sen. Adriano Espaillat has 31 percent support. Pastor Michael Walrond took 6 percent and Yolanda Garcia drew 5 percent. The candidates will meet in the primary on June 24.
NY-21 (OPEN): A new internal poll from Republican Matt Doheny’s campaign shows him leading Democrat Aaron Woolf in the general election by 22 points, taking 43 percent support to Woolf’s 21 percent support. Conspicuously missing from the poll was any mention of Doheny’s opponent for the nomination, Elise Stefanik, who will likely be on the ballot in November even if she doesn’t win the GOP nomination, as she’s nabbed the Conservative Party endorsement.
TX-4 (HALL): Rep. Ralph Hall’s (R-Texas) primary opponent, former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, said talking about the 91-year-old congressman’s age is fair game in a Thursday TV interview. The two are in a hard-fought race that ends Tuesday.
SCHWEITZER HITS HILLARY: Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) criticized Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections and didn’t rule out a presidential bid of his own in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
WALKER REELECTION FIGHT IN DEAD HEAT: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is tied with Democrat Mary Burke in a new Marquette University poll, though among likely voters he's still ahead. Walker will have to win reelection before he can seriously consider a presidential bid.
BOXER BOOSTING PRO-HILLARY GROUP: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will headline a fundraiser next month for the super-PAC focused on helping Hillary Clinton win the White House in 2016, according to an invitation obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
This post was updated at 9:11 a.m. to correct Mark Warner's fundraising numbers.