CNN’s POLITICAL GUT CHECK | for May 21, 2014 | 12 p.m.
— n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
JUST IN … OBAMA DEFENDS SHINSEKI, CALLS V.A. ALLEGATIONS “DISHONORABLE, DISGRACEFUL”…"I will not stand for it," President Barack Obama said today about allegations of misconduct at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. Obama said he understands that the public wants a "swift reckoning" in the VA scandal, but he asked for time to allow the investigation into allegations of fraudulent record-keeping to run its course.
Obama met today with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and said he told him there will be accountability throughout the VA system.
For six months, CNN has been reporting on delays in medical appointments for veterans across the country, with some dying or suffering harm while waiting for appointments and care. The most disturbing and striking problems emerged in Arizona, with sources revealing to CNN details of a secret waiting list. According to the sources, at least 40 American veterans died in Phoenix while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA.
CNN’S JAKE TAPPER TO DREW GRIFFIN, WHO BROKE THE STORY:
TAPPER: Drew, the soldiers, the veterans that you speak with, what did they want to hear from President Obama today? And did he deliver?
CNN’S DREW GRIFFIN, IN PHOENIX: “They did not want to hear is we're going to wait for yet again another office of inspector general report or some fact-finding mission. I was a little caught off guard by what apparently is a disconnect by what's happening out in the country and what the president is talking about.”
THE AMERICAN LEGION RESPONDS, APPLAUDS OBAMA, SLAMS SHINSEKI: “The American Legion applauds President Obama for committing himself to hold leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable for their actions. If this system-wide failure is to be corrected, it is paramount for our commander-in-chief to be personally involved.” The president’s decision to keep Secretary Shinseki at his post is an unfortunate one. The VA has been aware for some time that inappropriate scheduling procedures are widespread among its medical facilities. Yet Secretary Shinseki has taken no initiative in correcting the problem. Veterans continue to die waiting for their health care, senior VA executives continue to get their bonuses, and only after all of this is the secretary now pledging to fix what’s wrong.” – American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger
WITH OBAMA MANAGEMENT IN QUESTION, HE FIGURES PROMINENTLY IN MIDTERMS: SENATE MINORITY LEADER Mitch McConnell IN HIS VICTORY SPEECH TUESDAY: “Kentuckians are not going to be deceived. Alison Lundergan Grimes is Barack Obama's candidate. They know it, and they'll issue the same verdict on this candidate that they've issued twice before on him.”
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMESS IN HER VICTORY SPEECH TUESDAY: “Mitch McConnell would have you believe that President Obama is on Kentucky’s 2014 election ballot. We all know that Sen. McConnell has been in Washington a little bit too long, so out of touch that he can’t tell a difference between a Duke jersey and the University of Kentucky. Well, let me set the record straight tonight for our senior senator who is out of touch with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, President Obama is not on Kentucky’s 2014 election ballot. Nothing about this election will change who is in the White House but we can change who is in Washington, D.C. and finally put someone with the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
SEN. RAND PAUL TO MCCONNELL’S SUPPORTERS IN A VIDEO TUESDAY: “Obama needs Alison Grimes. Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell.”
AGAIN … GRIMES IN HER FIRST GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN AD OUT WEDNESDAY MORNING: “And no matter who the president is, I won’t answer to them. I’ll only answer to you.”
AND IN THE SENATE … CONTROVERSIAL OBAMA NOMINEE EXPECTED TO CLEAR SENATE HURDLE DESPITE PAUL'S OPPOSITION … Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday to deliver a 31-minute speech in opposition to the judicial nomination of a former Justice Department official, David Barron. Barron has drawn the ire of senators on the right and left for legal memos he wrote justifying the killing of an American terrorism suspect overseas with drones.
"I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat," Paul said on the Senate floor. Senators, however, believe they have the votes needed to break to break the GOP filibuster of the Harvard law professor to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which is based in Boston. – Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough
HOLD THE TEA, PLEASE … A CLEAN SWEEP FOR GOP ESTABLISHMENT IN LAST NIGHT’S PRIMARIES… Establishment Republicans came out on top in all the primary races, most notably in Kentucky where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily beat tea party-backed businessman Matt Bevin. Bevin told his supporters to take the higher road. “Return the scorn in the enmity of others with dignity.”
For McConnell, the focus is now on winning re-election and trying to take back the Senate majority. “We can take the reins of power away from Harry Reid and make this President accountable,” he told a room full of supporters in his victory speech. “Make me the majority leader and Kentucky will lead America.”
But McConnell will face a tough general election in the fall when he will face Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes, as CNN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell points out, is connected to big donors and her family has a long history in state Democratic politics.
In the South, the tea party gets no grits. Businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston are heading to a July runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia, beating out former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. The winner of the runoff will face Michelle Nunn, daughter of the former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, in November. Also in the Peach State, state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, will take on Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in November.
Out West, Wehby prevails: Neurosurgeon Monica Webby defeated state Rep. Jason Conger, a more conservative candidate, to win the Republican Senate primary. In recent weeks, Wehby has been the subject of allegations that she harassed her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend. The GOP is looking to Wehby to unseat Sen. Jeff Merkley in November, in a bid to gain control of the chamber.
In Arkansas, Pryor and Cotton focus on November: Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, will face GOP Rep. Tom Cotton in November in what will be one of the closest watched races of 2014 with control of the Senate on the line.
In Pennsylvania, Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law fails in comeback attempt: Former Rep. Marjorie Margolies failed in her bid to return to the House – despite receiving the backing of Bill and Hillary Clinton. She lost to state Rep. Brendan Boyle. Meanwhile, in the state's race for governor, Tom Wolf topped Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the Democratic primary. He'll face Gov. Tom Corbett in November.
Gut Check Full Service from CNN’s Dan Merica: Hillary Clinton appeared at a private fundraiser for Margolies last week, making it the only 2014 race so far she's gotten involved in. Republicans sought to frame the loss as proof that the Clinton's coattails are not that big. Democrats, however, were downplaying the race earlier in the day. Perhaps sensing a Margolies loss, some Clinton supporters told me that if the former congresswoman lost it wouldn’t reflect “at all” on Clinton.
How many women are currently serving as part of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: 'Cowboy' beats 'normal guy' in Idaho governor primary
Two-term Gov. Butch Otter has won the Republican primary in Idaho, narrowly beating out tea party challenger state Sen. Russ Fulcher. That would be the "cowboy" beating the "normal guy." The race gained national attention after a debate last week hosted by Idaho Public Television. Along with Otter and Fulcher, two lesser-known Republicans participated in what turned out to be a more entertaining than informative debate.
Leading Louisville Courier-Journal: McConnell crushes Bevin; Grimes cruises to win
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cruised to victories in Tuesday's primary elections, setting up a general election tilt that some predict will cost more than $100 million. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, easily bested Louisville businesman Matt Bevin. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, McConnell led Bevin 60 percent to 36 percent. Grimes was leading her nearest competitor 76 percent to 8 percent. – Joseph Gerth
Leading Oregonian: Monica Wehby defeats Jason Conger in GOP Senate primary
Political newcomer Monica Wehby handily defeated state Rep. Jason Conger in the Oregon Republican race for the U.S. Senate as she survived the personal controversy that dogged the last days of her primary race … Since Friday, state and national coverage of the race has focused on revelations that two men in Wehby's life - an ex-boyfriend and ex-husband - had both called police at separate times to complain that she was harassing them. Wehby said in statements that the reports involved trying personal times for her and that they didn't have any relevance to the Senate campaign. In her victory speech, she noted, "I try my best, but in life we all make mistakes." – Jeff Mapes
Leading Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Deal readies for November matchup against Carter
Tuesday after a bitter primary contest. Now he must prepare for a November vote against Democrat Jason Carter, whose brand-name political legacy has already electrified the race. Early returns show Deal with a wide lead over state Superintendent John Barge and former Dalton Mayor David Pennington. He needed to clear 50 percent to avoid a July 22 runoff. – Greg Bluestein
Leading Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Hutchinson, Ross seize victories
Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross won their parties’ respective gubernatorial nominations Tuesday. Hutchinson, 63, of Rogers, an attorney and former 3rd District congressman, defeated Curtis Coleman of Little Rock, founding CEO of Safe Foods Corp. in North Little Rock. – Michael Wickline
Leading Philadelphia Inquirer: Wolf wins Dems' nomination for Pa. governor
Tom Wolf, the wealthy small-town businessman who sold himself as an outsider, cruised to the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania governor Tuesday, dispatching three rivals after a dominant television advertising campaign. “This can't be a place that does good things for you if you have the right connections, if you live in the right place, if you look the right way," Wolf told about 1,000 cheering supporters at a minor-league baseball stadium in York. – Thomas FItzgerald
The political bites of the day
– Female contenders tout the importance of women in politics –
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES IN HER VICTORY SPEECH TUESDAY: “I am here to tell you tonight, my fellow Kentuckyans, I am not an empty dress, I am not a rubber stamp, and I am not a cheerleader. I am a strong Kentucky woman who is an independent thinker.”
REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ IN HER CONCESSION SPEECH IN PHILADELPHIA TUESDAY: “Let's move forward … We will be a united Democratic Party … (Someday) we will have a woman governor here."
MARJORIE MARGOLIES IN HER CONCESSION SPEECH TUESDAY: ”I just want to tell all of you … how important it is to make sure that women get to the table … When we are not there, we’re on the menu.”
– Ugly fighting ensues in Oregon –
MONICA WEHBY IN HER VICTORY SPEECH TUESDAY: "I do have a message for those national Democrats who were willing to shred my family for their own political gain: People are tired of your dirty tricks …Tonight, we're sending the message that this Senate race will not be decided by the kind of ugly politics that people in Oregon and across the country are so sick of."
SEN JEFF MERKLEY, D-OREGON, IN A STATEMENT TUESDAY: “National Republicans got their handpicked candidate in the Oregon Senate race this evening: Monica Wehby, a typical Republican who can't name one part of the national Republican agenda she would disagree with in Washington.”
– Carter: Family name won’t matter in Georgia … that much –
STATE SEN. JASON CARTER, D-GEORGIA, ON CNN’S NEW DAY: "I think that, you know, my family legacy is one that I'm very proud of. My grandfather, I think, is known as a person of honesty and integrity and folks want a little more of that in governors frankly. But that's not what this election is about. Ultimately it's going to be about the education system and helping the middle class and our vision of the future of Georgia.”
– Runoff battle begins in Georgia –
KINGSTON ON FOX & FRIENDS: “I’ve been consistent for the conservative cause for many years.My opponent has flip flopped. He’s a moderate flip-flopper and as primary voters look at his record - the more comfortable they are with mine as a consistent conservative … The choice between a moderate flip-flopper or a tested, conservative flip-flopper and we welcome them to our side.”
DAVID PERDUE RESPONDS ON FOX & FRIENDS: “That’s what we’ve become accustomed to in our career politicians. Nothing the Congressmen said is really true. The real issue is his record that he doesn’t want to talk about, which is his level of spending.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch)
Thank you Erick Erickson for donating. It's time to unite & retire Harry Reid http://www.teammitch.com/victory_donate#majority #kysen
Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul)
Congratulations to my colleague Mitch McConnell on tonight's victory! KY GOP must now unite for a win in November. Onwards to victory!
Neil King (@NKingofDC)
So Grimes got 96K more votes than McConnell. And 51K more Dems voted in the KY Senate primaries than Rs. http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/05/20/see-live-kentucky-election/9347345/ …
Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis)
.@rickklein @NKingofDC Kentucky has 40% more registered Democrats than Republicans. Doesn't mean they vote that way in November.
Rob Lockwood (@RobLockwood)
.@rickklein @StevenTDennis @NKingofDC in 2012 Obama got 30k more primary votes than Romney in WV. Did that mean anything for general? No.
Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten)
So will Kingston and Perdue try and out-conservative each other in the runoff? Or will there be some eye toward the general? Guessing prior.
The RGA (@The_RGA)
Tom Wolf is a job-killing liberal with a lousy record on economic growth. He is too extreme for Pennsylvania. http://goo.gl/xhpBhI #PAGOV
Wonder how much Christie’s RGA will spend to bail out Corbett in #PAGov. Would all be wasted.
Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh)
There's no doubt Margolies squandered a huge early lead, but clear signs that Clintons both did bare minimum http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/the-clinton-magic-fades-in-philadelphia-20140520 …
One woman is part of Pennsylvania’s twenty person delegation to Congress: Rep. Allyson Schwartz. Schwartz lost the Democratic primary for Governor Tuesday night and did not file for reelection for her House seat.
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