Candidate finds pals in Washington

Two months ago last week, Delaware Senate candidate Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsGOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking MORE (D) spoke to the Senate Democratic Conference during its weekly lunch.

“I gave about a 10-minute speech, got a standing ovation,” Coons told The Hill.

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Appreciation wasn’t the only thing he took away from the meeting.

“I’ve so far received about $140,000 [in campaign contributions] from 30 sitting senators, which is a pretty substantial response,” Coons said. “And a number of them have committed to hosting events for me.”

To Coons’s surprise, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum The Trumpification of the federal courts Trump to rally evangelicals after critical Christianity Today editorial MORE (D-Nev.) was one of the senators who offered to host a fundraiser.

“He called and he offered,” Coons said. “We’ve got a date and a place and everything.”

Coons said he couldn’t go into the details until Reid’s office made the official announcement. But he sounded upbeat about their growing friendship.

“He and I have developed a really great relationship. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised,” he said. “I didn’t know him before this.

“And we have these fairly long personal talks and he’s a very straight-up, engaging guy who’s very concerned about my family. We talked about values, about ‘How do you manage it?’ and balancing things.”

Coons didn’t expect to find the majority leader so personable, he said. “He’s a very gentle, gracious person.”

Several people told Coons that Reid has been talking him up during fundraising events for his own reelection campaign.

“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised to hear that from folks in New York and Chicago, as well as here several times,” Coons said. “He’s taken a real personal interest in the race.”

Coons, the New Castle County executive, is expected to face Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) in the general election. He’s been trailing in some recent polls but says his campaign operation is gearing up thanks to some help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Coming off a “cold start,” Coons said the DSCC lent him staff to get his campaign up and running.

Still, he maintains he’s running his own race.

“They’re very clear about, ‘This is your race to win, we’re here as a resource, we want to help you with strategic advice,’” Coons said. “But they are not telling me how to run or what positions to take.”

From Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE — Delaware’s most famous Democrat — Coons said he’d received a “general offer of support and encouragement.”

Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

— S.J.M.


Going negative

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) is facing one of the strongest political headwinds this cycle. Ohio’s economy remains stalled, the state budget has been cut dramatically and a strong challenger has emerged in former Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio).

With that in mind, he’s moved quickly to define Kasich as more aligned with Wall Street than Main Street Ohio on account of his past working with Lehman Brothers, the now-defunct investment bank.

The Kasich camp estimates that Strickland and his union allies have spent $1.3 million on negative attack ads in the race. While those ads have been on the air, Strickland has slipped further behind Kasich in surveys by Rasmussen Reports.

Strickland had been only a point behind his Republican opponent, but a new Rasmussen poll shows Kasich picking up 47 percent support, with Strickland earning just 42 percent.

An official with the Strickland campaign said the Rasmussen poll contradicts what they’ve been seeing in other surveys. The official pointed to the 5-point lead Strickland had in a recent Ohio Poll as just one example.

—S.J.M.


Kirk gets nod of approval from veterans group

Rep. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Ill.) remains under fire for his account of his military service, but that hasn’t stopped veterans groups from supporting him.

On Monday, the group Vets for Freedom PAC announced it’s backing the five-term congressman for the Senate race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

“As a 21-year Navy Intelligence Reserve Officer with distinguished service in Operation Allied Force (Kosovo), Operation Northern Watch (Iraq), Afghanistan and the National Military Command Center, there are few public servants with Mark Kirk’s level of experience and expertise on the most important national security issues of our time,” Pete Hegseth, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

The group said it has supported both Democrats and Republicans.

Kirk has apologized for misstatements about his Navy Reserve career, including saying he served in the Gulf War.

— S.J.M.

Miller is a campaign reporter for The Hill.  He can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.