Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiTrump VA secretary considerations full of reform-minded candidates Veterans group blasts VA secretary, despite words of regret Cruz: VA secretary 'should resign' MORE 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.

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It was Senate Democrats’ top challenger who was the first major candidate to call for Shinseki’s ouster, seeing an 
opportunity to distinguish herself from Senate Minority Leader Mitch 
McConnell (R) in what’s expected to be the most expensive race in the 
country this year.

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 HaganKay HaganGOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate MORE (D-N.C.) and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (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.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

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 McConnellMitch McConnellPresident Obama should curb mass incarceration with clemency Cruz, DeSantis to introduce constitutional amendment on term limits Democrats back down from shutdown threat MORE (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 Jeanne ShaheenDems push for panel to probe Russian interference in election Hoyer pushes White House for briefing on Russian election interference This Week in Cybersecurity: Dems press for information on Russian hacks MORE. 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 WarnerMark WarnerStopgap funding bill poised to pass Senate before midnight deadline Democrats back down from shutdown threat Senate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches MORE (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 CantorEric CantorTrump allies warn: No compromise on immigration Chamber of Commerce overhauls lobbying operation Laura Ingraham under consideration for White House press secretary MORE (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 GingreyPhil GingreyBeating the drum on healthcare Former GOP chairman joins K Street Former Rep. Gingrey lands on K Street MORE'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 BentivolioKerry BentivolioIndiana Republican: Leaders duped me Reindeer farmer saves 'cromnibus' with yes vote High drama as .1T spending package advances by one vote MORE (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 HallRalph HallGOP fights off primary challengers in deep-red Texas Most diverse Congress in history poised to take power Lawmakers pay tribute to Rep. Ralph Hall MORE’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. 

 

2016 WATCH

SCHWEITZER HITS HILLARY: Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) criticized Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonJoy Behar: Why do I have to be nice about Trump? Poll: Republicans think media ‘intentionally misled the public’ about polling Democrats: Where the hell are You? MORE’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 BoxerBarbara BoxerSenate Dem blocks own bill over California drought language House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Fight over water bill heats up in Senate MORE (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.