CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: GOP makes hay over VA

Republicans pounced on the Veterans Affairs struggles on Thursday, with a number of Senate candidates weighing in to attack VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (and their opponents).

As Shinseki headed to the Senate to testify about allegations of secret wait lists for veterans at a number of hospitals that led to a number of deaths, Republicans hoping to join the upper chamber teed off on the chairman, with some calling for his resignation.

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"While I have the utmost respect for Secretary Shinseki’s honorable service to our country, I agree with the American Legion that he should step down,” said Alaska Senate candidate Dan Sullivan in a Thursday statement.

His comments were echoed by former Rep. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who's running in New Hampshire, Virginia candidate and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R), and Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.). The Republican National Committee chimed in as well, calling for an independent probe of the VA.

Most Democrats sought to voice their outrage as well, though none called for Shinseki's head.

“Our nation’s veterans have stepped up and offered their service, and in some cases, their lives,” Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) told Shinseki during the hearing. “We, as a nation, are responsible for providing these veterans with the best care available. Let me be perfectly clear; if the VA has failed in its obligations to provide health services, it must be held accountable at the agency level and at the individual level.”

But not everyone handled the situation as well. Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn didn't help herself when she said she deferred "to the president's judgement about the leadership" of the VA — comments that may haunt her this fall.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

IA-SEN (OPEN): Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) leads the pack in her crowded Senate primary, according to a new Loras College poll. Ernst is at 31 percent in the poll, while businessman Mark Jacobs (R) is at 19 percent, former radio host Sam Clovis (R) is at 10 percent and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) is at 7 percent.

Jacobs rolled out an endorsement from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey (R), who said he "has the experience to help Iowa agriculture and the thousands of Iowa jobs related to farming."

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) for scuttling a bipartisan energy efficiency bill because he didn't want his opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), to get a win she could run on this fall.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) endorsed former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) in her crowded primary. 

MI-SEN (OPEN): Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land's (R) latest ad warns of the "economic war on Michigan being waged by Washington," attacking ObamaCare and "Washington's red-tape bureaucracy."

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) is up with her first ad of the campaign, a radio spot touting her Hawaii roots promising to fight for a "good living, a good education, a good job, a good home" for all.

TN-SEN (ALEXANDER): Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has a huge lead over his primary opponents, according to an internal poll released by Alexander's campaign.

OR-SEN (MERKLEY): Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) endorsed Oregon state Rep. Jason Conger (R) in his Senate bid against Dr. Monica Wehby (R), the establishment favorite. New Republican, a group backing Wehby's campaign, released a poll from Public Opinion Strategies that found Wehby has a  41 percent to 24 percent lead over Conger.

OK-SEN (OPEN): Citizens United endorsed Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) in his primary against Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), making it the latest conservative group to back Shannon in the race.

KOCHS: The Democratic group American Bridge released a national TV ad slamming billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group wouldn't disclose where the ad is running or how much is behind it. The ad is part of an effort by the group to identify local stories to attack the Kochs on this election cycle.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

MI-13 (CONYERS): President Obama endorsed Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in his primary. Conyers has been disqualified from appearing on the primary ballot after failing to submit enough signatures, and may have to run as a write-in candidate.

PA-13 (OPEN): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headlining a last-minute New York City fundraiser with former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-Pa.), whose son is married to Chelsea Clinton and is looking to win back her old House seat in a tough primary next Tuesday. But Margolies won't even be at her own event this evening.

NJ-3 (OPEN): Former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur (R) has a 46 percent to 35 percent lead over former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) in a new Monmouth University poll. MacArthur has the backing of establishment Republicans in the state and in Washington who worry that the Tea Party-oriented Lonegan, who lost a 2012 Senate race, would jeopardize retiring Rep. Jon Runyan's (R-N.J.) seat.

NC-6 (OPEN): Retiring Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) endorsed Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. (R) to replace him in the House. Berger is the favorite in his primary runoff.

WV-2 (OPEN)/AZ-8 (OPEN): The NRCC launched robo-calls attacking Democratic nominee for West Virginia Nick Casey for supporting President Obama in 2008 and hitting Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) on Medicare Advantage cuts.

 

2016 WATCH

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outperforms every potential GOP candidate for president in the battleground state of Ohio — but a new poll shows the state's governor, John Kasich (R), comes closest to narrowing the gap.

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found Clinton held a 47 percent to 42 percent gap over the Ohio governor. Her lead expands to 7 points or more against other potential opponents.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is heading to Cincinnati Friday night to headline a Lincoln Day Dinner alongside Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in Portman's hometown. The fundraising event is the latest sign Paul is trying to earn chits with establishment Republicans as he eyes a presidential bid — Portman is a major GOP power player, and the organization is his.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heaped praise on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as potential presidential contenders, saying she thought "Jeb would be fantastic" as a candidate.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I was living in Fat Jack’s cellar because my ex-wife had trumped up, gave me restraining orders; I couldn’t see my kids. It was a mess. And Fat Jack's old lady, Fat Jack's wife is yelling 'get this lunatic out of my cellar, he's starting a presidential campaign!' " — Idaho gubernatorial candidate Harley Brown (R) during a debate with Gov. Butch Otter (R) and two others