Democrats who believe they have emerged unscathed from the Republican focus on Benghazi and the IRS — which President Obama has described as a "sideshow" — are not quite as confident about the burgeoning scandal at the Veterans Administration. As Congress opens hearings on allegations of secret "waiting lists" and veterans dying because of treatment delays, the political threat is considered very real.
"The one that I think hurts the Democrats the most is not Benghazi, is not IRS, is not Obamacare," said veteran Ohio Democratic strategist Jerry Austin. "It is the Veterans Administration. The idea of having wounded warriors dying and all these terrible stories here, that is something that no one can defend."
He added, "It looks like that is one that has legs."
Longtime Republican strategist Rich Galen sees the same thing. "Benghazi and IRS, those are things that have the coastal press rolling their eyes," he said. "But this VA thing is huge. If I were the Republican Conference, I would give up everything else and just throw both feet into the VA."
As Austin suggested, Democrats are not rushing onto television to defend either the VA or the administration's handling of veteran claims. One of the few senators willing to do so has been Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent. And it didn't go particularly well for him when he was interviewed Thursday morning on CNN's New Day.