Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has $88M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas

Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has $88M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas
© Greg Nash

This is Election Countdown, The Hill's weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) that wades through the biggest stories on the campaign trail. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please).

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We're 111 days from the 2018 midterm elections and 839 days from the 2020 elections.


The battle for the House and Senate have at least one thing in common: Democrats are raising a ton of cash and are well ahead in the money game less than four months out from November.

Democrats' money advantage gives them an extra boost as the party looks to flip 23 seats in the House and the even tougher task of cutting into Republicans' slim 51-seat Senate majority.

Democrats' edge in second-quarter fundraising--money raised between April and June--is setting off alarm bells for Republicans, who already face tough headwinds in the midterms.


In the House, Democrats are repeatedly outraising GOP incumbents. More than 50 Democratic candidates brought in more money than the sitting GOP lawmakers they are challenging in the second quarter of the year. It's a trend we've been seeing all cycle and the number of Democrats outpacing GOP members keeps growing each fundraising quarter. Meanwhile, only one GOP candidate outraised a Democratic incumbent. Republican John Chrin raised more than Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Unions aren’t a thing of the past. Unions are our future. More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents MORE (D-Pa.).



Here's a rundown of other notable stats: Over 20 Democrats raised more than $1 million each. For context, House candidates in previous cycles typically raised six-figures, which were considered strong hauls. Raising a million is on par with some Senate candidates.

At least 14 Democratic candidates have more cash on hand than Republican incumbents. And in open-seat races, Democrats outraised their Republican rivals in 25 races. Meanwhile, Republicans outraised Democratic challengers in at least five open seats.


Meanwhile, in the Senate: My colleague Reid Wilson broke down Democratic candidates and outside groups' massive cash lead. Democrats running in the 10 most competitive Senate races have a combined $75 million in the bank, while their GOP opponents have a total of $33 million.

Same goes for the campaign committees and outside groups: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has twice as much cash on hand at the end of May as the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), $34 million compared with $16 million. And Democrats' Senate Majority PAC also had twice as much on hand compared to Republicans' Senate Leadership Fund: $29 million to $13.5 million.

Regardless, both parties will have plenty of money to go around, which is evident in their ad spending. Reid also reported that candidates and outside groups have bought or reserved over $270 million in TV ads across 11 states this year -- so brace yourself for the ad wars.


Race for the White House

Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin has dominated the news for three days and it's cleary on the minds of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. They've been using it as another opportunity to contrast themselves with Trump and rile up their base. Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Ellison wins Minnesota AG primary amid late domestic violence allegations Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat MORE (I-Vt.) called Trump's performance "pathetic," while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCanadian corporate tax cuts show success of strong economic policy Avenatti on 2020 campaign: 'The truth is my policy issue' Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America MORE (D-Mass.) described it as "disgraceful" and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Border patrol chief: Calls to abolish ICE impact the morale of my team Kamala Harris tied with Bernie Sanders as betting favorite for 2020 Dems MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted that Trump abdicated "his national security responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief."


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenTech companies earn White House praise for committing to easier health data access Biden honors Heather Heyer: She is 'in every person who stands up to reject hatred and bigotry' Avenatti on 2020 campaign: 'The truth is my policy issue' MORE will continue to test the presidential waters by appearing at more Democratic campaign events after Labor Day. Biden, 75, is backed in the 2020 Dem primary by about one-third of registered Democrats, according to a recent poll, though he hasn't made a final decision.


And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFormer Teacher of the Year wins Connecticut primary Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing MORE (D-Calif.) secured a new book deal on Tuesday, raising speculation that she may run in 2020. Harris is expected to come out with "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey" in early 2019.


Senate showdown

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceFormer Air Force secretary: Trump's proposed Space Force is a waste of resources Top Senate Democrat: Space Force is 'not the way to go' Why you should take Trump’s Space Force seriously MORE will speak at fundraisers for Republican Missouri Senate hopeful Josh Hawley and Illinois Rep. Mike BostMichael (Mike) J. BostMORE on Thursday. Pence is scheduled to tout the Trump administration's tax cuts at the events.


The California Democratic Party issued a stunning endorsement over the weekend to state Sen. Kevin de León, who's challenging 25-year incumbent Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh GOP lawmaker calls on FBI to provide more info on former Feinstein staffer It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy MORE. De León is running as the progressive alternative to Feinstein. He received 65 percent of the state party caucus's support, while Feinstein got just 7 percent. Feinstein was also snubbed by the CDP at its February convention where she failed to clinch their endorsement prior to the June primary. But it is unlikely de León will beat Feinstein in the general election. She topped him by 44 to 12 in the state primary, which sends the top two finishers regardless of party on to the general.


Wisconsin Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson (R) came out with a scathing op-ed on Monday criticizing his own parents for donating to Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (D-Wis.). He wrote that his mother and father "turned their back" on him and his immediate family. Nicholson faces state Sen. Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin's GOP primary on Aug. 14.


Conservative donor Robert Mercer has put $500,000 into a super PAC supporting Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward, according to Politico. Mercer hopes the PAC money will give Ward an edge over her GOP primary opponents, Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump signs 7B annual defense policy bill into law Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report Dems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority MORE (R-Ariz.) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.


Survey says…

A new Marquette University poll found Vukmir now slightly ahead of Nicholson about a month before Wisconsin's GOP Senate primary. However, nearly one-third of primary voters are still undecided.


A new poll from Remington Research Group found Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterMontana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad Vulnerable Dems side with Warren in battle over consumer bureau The Memo: Trump roars into rally season MORE (D-Mont.) narrowly leading state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) by 3 points, 49 to 46 percent.


The race between former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnElection Countdown: Takeaways from too-close-to-call Ohio special election | Trump endorsements cement power but come with risks | GOP leader's race now rated as 'toss-up' | Record numbers of women nominated | Latino candidates get prominent role in 2020 Top Koch official fires back at critics: We are not an 'appendage' of the GOP The Hill's Morning Report: Trump tries to rescue Ohio House seat as GOP midterm fears grow MORE (R-Tenn.) in the deep-red state remains wide open, according to new polls. One poll from a Democratic super PAC found Bredesen ahead by 3 points, while a survey from Trump-aligned Committee to Defend the President shows Blackburn up 3 points, though her lead is narrowing.


In House polls, 314 Action and polling firm Change Research released a poll that shows Democrat Joseph Kopser within striking distance of Republican Chip Roy in the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithTo protect the environment, Trump should investigate Russian collusion Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Greens sue EPA over ‘super-polluting’ truck rule MORE (R-Texas). The poll finds that Roy leads by double-digits, but when voters are given messages about both candidates, the gap closes to a 2-point lead. 314 Action has backed a number of Democrats with STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) backgrounds running for office.


And in special election news, Republican Troy Balderson's lead is narrowing in the race to replace ex-Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio Dem candidate knocks Trump: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about Trump claims victory as Balderson holds on to slim lead in Ohio Trump, 'blue wave' tested in Ohio: live results MORE (R-Ohio). Balderson now leads Democrat Danny O'Connor by 5 points, 48 to 43 percent.


Paper chase

The DSCC reserved $30 million in late television advertising across six states: Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana (all states where Trump won and Democrats are on the defense) in addition to Arizona and Nevada (Democrats' two best pick-up opportunities).


The IRS altered donor transparency laws to allow people to donate to charitable organizations without public donation records. This change was praised by conservatives in Congress.


In more 2020 news, Trump has already raised $88 million for his reelection campaign, with $600,000 going to "Make America Great Again" hats, shirts, stickers, and other advertising supplies. His campaign has spent north of $1 million on legal fees this year. According to FEC filings, Trump has paid the law firm Jones Day about $180,000. He has also dished out roughly $54,000 to the two firms representing him in his legal battle with adult film star Stormy Daniels.


What we're watching

We're about three weeks away from the start of the August primaries. But before primaries start up again, there's one more GOP primary in Georgia's gubernatorial race. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and secretary of State Brian Kemp will square off on July 24.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Pressley seeks Ocasio-Cortez-styled win in Boston Republicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters MORE (D-N.Y.) last month, are campaigning together at Friday rallies in Wichita and Kansas City for progressive House candidates James Thompson and Brent Welder in Kansas.


Coming to a TV near you

The NRSC is out with its first TV ad of the cycle, taking aim at Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampProgressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh Woman throws stuffed lips at Doug Jones, says he 'can kiss my ass' if he backs Kavanaugh Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate MORE (D-N.D.) who's in one of the double-digit Trump states. The ad accuses Heitkamp of "pretending to be independent and bipartisan." And it brings up a favorite GOP boogeyman: Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat MORE.


And in another state where Trump overwhelmingly won, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is accusing Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinProgressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh Woman throws stuffed lips at Doug Jones, says he 'can kiss my ass' if he backs Kavanaugh Trump’s big wall isn’t going anywhere — and the polls show why MORE (D) of "lying" to the president about key votes like ObamaCare repeal and the tax overhaul. Manchin ultimately voted against those measures.


Wave watch

Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherTrump campaign aide socialized with alleged Russian agent during 2016 campaign: report Election Countdown: Trump jumps into Ohio special election fight | What to watch in Tennessee primaries | Koch network freezes out Republicans who crossed them | Dead heat in Texas, Nevada Senate races | How celebs are getting into the midterms Dems make big play for House in California MORE's (R-Calif.) name keeps popping up in the news this week. He's in one of the most competitive races in California this cycle, after 30 years in office and many easy reelection races.

He appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series "Who is America?" where he's seen backing a fake program to arm toddlers with guns. But Rohrabacher says he rejects that program and called the episode a "fraud.

And Rohrabacher said that in 2015, he met with Maria Butina, the Russian woman who was arrested Monday and charged with "conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General."

A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday gave Democratic nominee Harley Rouda a slight edge over Rohrabacher, who has drawn backlash from his comments that "we're all to blame" for Russia's 2016 election interference.


Election Countdown was written by Lisa Hagen, Caroline Gardner, Maya Lora, Jesus Rodriguez, Jasper Goodman, Zach Phillips, and Wyatt Schiff.