Republicans hitting Senate Democrats on VA scandal
By: James Hohmann
May 28, 2014 02:11 PM EDT
The VA scandal is entering a new phase, as Republicans shift from calling for Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation to putting money behind paid attacks on Democrats who have not.
In Alaska, Crossroads GPS launched a $450,000, one-week hit on Sen. Mark Begich Wednesday morning. “Veterans died waiting for care that never came,” a narrator says. “Sen. Mark Begich sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee.”
In Arkansas, Tom Cotton rolled out a pre-roll web ad Tuesday afternoon to attack Sen. Mark Pryor on the issue. “One-hundred-sixty-two Democrats joined Tom Cotton and Republicans in passing the VA Accountability Act, but Mark Pryor and Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the bill and then went on a 10-day vacation,” a narrator says. “Even as some Democrats agree that Secretary Shinseki should resign, Mark Pryor refuses to clean up the mess.”
Republicans operatives say to expect more attacks like this soon. They offer the chance to tie Democrats with President Barack Obama in states where he’s unpopular, and the Veterans Affairs scandal provides another data point beyond the rollout of healthcare.gov to fuel a narrative that the administration is incompetent.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is putting out robocalls Wednesday in 10 competitive Senate races, another inexpensive tool to reach tens of thousands of people while generating free publicity.
“We’re learning that this Administration’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs is failing our veterans. They are being denied the care they deserved and the Department is covering it up,” the robocall script says. “Call [Senator] and tell him/her our veterans deserve an independent investigation — not another political cover up.”
Begich and Pryor are targeted, along with Colorado’s Mark Udall, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, New Mexico’s Tom Udall, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Virginia’s Mark Warner. Democratic candidates Bruce Braley in Iowa, Gary Peters in Michigan and Rick Weiland in South Dakota are also on the list.
Not getting hit are the three Democratic Senate candidates who called for Shinseki’s resignation ahead of Memorial Day: Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, Georgia’s Michelle Nunn and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant. Their statements put the others in a tough spot because it gives the attacks on those who have not a less partisan sheen.
Several of the top Republican Senate recruits this cycle have military experience. Besides Cotton, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and New Hampshire’s Scott Brown all served in the Armed Forces.
Montana’s interim Democratic Sen. John Walsh, a veteran of the Iraq war, has not thrown Shinseki overboard. But his Republican challenger, Rep. Steve Daines, did call for the secretary’s resignation.
Crossroads GPS gave the exclusive on their Begich attack to CNN, which has been aggressively covering problems at the VA. This ensures it will get covered on cable and could spawn more attacks across the map.
The Cotton web ad is inexpensive and will appear only on Arkansas websites and in front of YouTube videos.