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 Ken ShinsekiTrump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job Is Ronny Jackson qualified to be the next VA secretary? Let's look at his predecessors GOP, vet groups react with caution to Trump VA pick 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 Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups 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 Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina 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 CochranMississippi Democrat drops Senate bid Dems look to keep up momentum in upcoming special elections Chamber of Commerce makes play in Mississippi Senate race for Hyde-Smith 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 McConnellMcConnell sees Ohio in play as confidence about midterms grows   Giuliani: White House wants briefing on classified meeting over Russia probe GOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate confirms Haspel to head CIA Democrats urge colleagues to oppose prison reform bill Trump-backed prison reforms face major obstacles in Senate 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 Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (D). He’s also got the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund in the race.

KS-SEN (ROBERTS): Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsRepublicans think Trump is losing trade war Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure 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 Milton LevinHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe Congress dangerously wields its oversight power in Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate 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 ShaheenHillicon Valley: Sweeping new data rules take effect | Facebook, Google already hit with complaints | Schumer slams reported ZTE deal | Senators look to save cyber post | Dem wants answers about Trump's phone security Senate panel targets Turkey's participation in F-35 program Judd Gregg: 'Medicare for all' means rationing for everyone 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 Davis RyanRepublicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November Don't let them fool you — Republicans love regulation, too Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House MORE’s (R-Wis.) budget.

VA-7 (CANTOR): House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement 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 (Tim) Michael KaineParent of middle school students amid shooting: ‘This happens in high school, not here’ Kaine demands answers on Pentagon missions in Africa Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization 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 ClintonTrump lashes out at 'rigged' Russia probe in pair of tweets Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November 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 ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump must move beyond the art of the deal in North Korea talks To woo black voters in Georgia, Dems need to change their course of action 2018 midterms: The blue wave or a red dawn? 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