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 Shinseki to step down.
Sen. Mark Udall (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 Hagan (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.
MS-SEN (COCHRAN): The Mississippi Senate air war continues to rage under a week out from the primary. Sen. Thad Cochran’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 Begich (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 McConnell (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 Cotton (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.
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 Landrieu (D). He’s also got the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund in the race.
KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Sen. Pat Roberts (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 Levin’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.
NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (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 Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget.
VA-7 (CANTOR): House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (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 Kaine (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.
CLINTON: Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton 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 Clinton, 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