An interim inspector general report Wednesday on the Veterans Affairs scandal gave vulnerable Democratic senators the opportunity they needed to add their names to growing calls for embattled Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiHouse approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees Shulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs MORE to step down. 

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Now, the better question may be who won’t call for him to resign as they look to protect their seats this fall. 

Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) became the first sitting Democratic senator to say he should step aside, followed soon by appointed Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.). They join other Democrats in tough Senate races, including Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Natalie Tennant in West Virginia and Rick Weiland in South Dakota. 

All face difficult — some unwinnable — contests, and most are behind their GOP challenger in already calling for Shinseki’s head. It was a quick and expected way for Republicans to react, but it was another way for the party’s most vulnerable senators who need to distance themselves from the president to do so.

The question is, did they react soon enough?

An outrage like the VA should be non-political, but everything is politics even in an election year. Even if some Republicans are saying this shouldn’t be a campaign issue, expect to see many more ads and releases hitting Democrats who may have waited too long to make their voices heard. 

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): The Mississippi Senate air war continues to rage under a week out from the primary. Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranWhite House requests B for disaster relief GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong MORE’s (R) campaign launched a new ad tying three of the alleged co-conspirators in the scheme to photograph his wife in her nursing home bed to his primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. “Rise up and say no to dirty politics and yes to our strong conservative leader, Thad Cochran,” the ad says.

That new ad follows one from the McDaniel campaign calling Cochran “shameless” for using the issue in campaign attacks. And it comes the same day the pro-McDaniel Club for Growth launched its final ads in the race, a radio and television spot contrasting Cochran’s record in Washington with McDaniel. A pro-Cochran group also launched a new radio ad featuring former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) touting Cochran’s work in the Senate.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) was endorsed by former primary rival and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) in his bid against businessman David Perdue (R). The Chamber of Commerce also cut an ad backing Kingston that featured former University of Georgia star running back Herschel Walker.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Crossroads GPS ties Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) to the ongoing scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department in a new ad, accusing him of not doing enough to fix the problem.

Begich, meanwhile, has a new ad mocking Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R) for filming an ad at a building Begich helped get funding to build.

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’s campaign is knocking Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) for declaring that the state’s healthcare exchange isn't connected to ObamaCare.

Meanwhile, a new survey out from GOP pollster Wenzel Strategies shows McConnell up over Grimes, 47-44.

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) by 44 percent to 39 percent in a new Civil Beat Poll.

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ark.) released another positive biographical ad, this one featuring his new wife. Americans for Prosperity also launched a positive ad spotlighting Cotton’s work for farmers, whom he’s struggled with because of his vote against the farm bill, part of more than $3 million in outside spending that is coming in on Cotton’s behalf in the coming weeks.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Two new polls find Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) with a lead over former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R). He leads by 44 percent to 38 percent in a poll for the Detroit Free Press, and by 40 percent to 35 percent in one for the Detroit News.

Americans for Prosperity put out a new ad attacking Peters on ObamaCare that focuses on female voters, while Ending Spending is out with an ad attacking Peters on Keystone XL

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): The Tea Party Express endorsed Rob Maness for Senate in Louisiana, the candidate billing himself as the conservative alternative to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) and Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuYou want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' MORE (D). He’s also got the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund in the race.

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Overnight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost MORE (R-Kans.) released a new minute-long ad featuring the story of a young Kansas woman who was taken captive while teaching in Ethiopia and her mother touting Roberts’s efforts to bring her home.

Miami Heat forward Shane Battier said he was approached to run for retiring Sen. Carl LevinCarl LevinPresident Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Republicans can learn from John McCain’s heroism Trump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate MORE’s (D-Mich.) seat by the Michigan Democratic Party. A party spokesman categorically denied it.

IA-SEN (OPEN): Republicans of all stripes have coalesced around state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who is pulling away in her primary ahead of next Tuesday’s vote.

Businessman Mark Jacobs (R) dropped two new ads on Wednesday, neither of which attacks Ernst — surprising, considering her growing lead.

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenHomeland Security searching some social media doesn't violate privacy The feds shouldn't blackball Kaspersky without public evidence Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny MORE (D-N.H.) and her most prominent Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, have released new ads highlighting their ties to New Hampshire.

MT-SEN (WALSH): State Sen. Dirk Adams (D) is out with an ad slamming Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) for suggesting he might be open to privatizing Social Security. Adams is a significant underdog in the primary.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

NY-21 (OPEN): The GOP contenders for retiring Rep. Bill Owens’s (D-N.Y.) seat, Matt Doheny and Elise Stefanik, met in a debate Tuesday night, during which both affirmed their opposition to ObamaCare and, notably, to Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE’s (R-Wis.) budget.

VA-7 (CANTOR): House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorEric Cantor offering advice to end ‘immigration wars’ Trump's olive branch differs from the golden eras of bipartisanship After divisive rally, Trump calls for unity MORE (R-Va.) isn’t taking any chances in his primary — he’s out with a second ad attacking Tea Party candidate and Prof. David Brat (R) for working with then-Gov. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia MORE (D).

FL-13 (JOLLY): Though Democrats missed the boat in Florida’s 13th District this year, they could have their candidate to challenge Rep. David Jolly (R) next cycle in Beverly Young, the widow of the district’s former representative, Rep. Bill Young (R), who said she plans to run against him in 2016. Their relationship has soured considerably since she endorsed him in the primary, after he fired a number of her husband's former staffers.

NJ-3 (OPEN): Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed Steve Lonegan (R) in his bid for retiring Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R-N.J.) seat, but a new survey from a group supporting his GOP primary opponent, Tom MacArthur, shows Lonegan trailing MacArthur by 13 points.

 

2016 WATCH

CLINTON: Former secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE hinted that her upcoming memoir may lay out a rationale for her expected presidential run in 2016.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a longstanding rival of former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, all but endorsed her.

“I really believe that Hillary Clinton has the presence, the experience and the support of the vast majority of Democrats in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime,” Brown told The Washington Post. “She has this if she wants.”

And polling shows the public opposes questions related to Clinton’s health like those recently raised by GOP strategist Karl Rove.

BIDEN: Vice President Biden is in San Francisco to headline a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer’s home this evening.

He also knocked China’s lack of innovation in an earlier speech.

"Name me one innovative project, one innovative change, one innovative product that has come out of China," he said.

PERRY: More than a dozen New Hampshire GOP power players are in Texas to meet with Gov. Rick Perry (R), who’s mulling another presidential bid.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I’m not a politician. I’m not going to put on high heels and a dress and try to convince people that I’m what they want.”

—Beverly Young, the widow of late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), explaining why she might run as a Democrat against Rep. David Jolly (R), whom she endorsed in the primary