Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral

Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral
© Getty Images

Welcome to Election Countdown, The Hill's new newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Ben Kamisar (@bkamisar). Each week, we'll wade through the biggest stories on the campaign trail and some you may have missed. We'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com and Ben at BKamisar@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please). Click here to sign up.

We're 6 days until the next round of primaries, 139 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 867 days until the 2020 elections.

 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE's reversal on his family separation policy dominated Washington on Wednesday.

The backlash to the administration's decision to separate children from their families when caught crossing the border illegally boiled over in recent days. Trump faced criticism from lawmakers in both parties, including prominent Republicans.

And the issue took hold with the public as cable networks ran wall-to-wall coverage with images of young children being held behind metal fencing in detention centers.

Trump Wednesday signed an executive order that would keep detained families together.

Democrats quickly pounced on the issue, seeing an edge in November.

By Tuesday, a number of the party's potential 2020 contenders had seized on the controversy. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan MORE (D-Mass.) accused Trump of trying to hold children "hostage," while Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) called it "a low point for me as an American."

Some of the strongest voices against the policy were vulnerable Republicans who sought to distance themselves from the president.

Trump's executive order could give Republicans a brief respite, but Democrats are unlikely to drop the issue. By Wednesday, the focus was already shifting, with Democrats raising questions about any plan to detain migrant families long term.

Polling shows the policy is extremely unpopular with moderate and independent voters--a key voter bloc for Democrats.

Two Monday polls from Quinnipiac and CNN found that two thirds of independents oppose separating families at the border, and that Republicans (and voters who approve of Trump) were the only subgroups that supported the policy.

The House GOP is also voting on two immigration bills on Thursday, including a compromise bill that includes help for Dreamers. But Republicans are struggling to get the votes to pass that measure.

Despite Trump's order, the GOP's immigration woes aren't going away any time soon. And in the run up to December, Democrats plan to keep up the pressure.

 

 

Survey says…

With new polls flying in every day, here are a few that caught our eyes:

DCCC internals: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped 11 internal polls on Tuesday that show close races (or Democratic leads) in top races, including those against including those against Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act This week: House to vote on bill to ban LGBTQ discrimination MORE (Pa.), Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE (N.J.), Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrDying on the track: Horse racing is at a crossroads On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs MORE (Ky.), John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform The Hill's Morning Report - Dems debate if Biden's conduct with women disqualifying MORE (Texas) and Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (Va.)

But none will be cakewalks, and incumbent Republicans are even putting up strong numbers in some of these polls too. Some of the GOP lawmakers in those races: Reps. Steve PearceStevan (Steve) Edward PearceNew Mexico Dems brace for crowded race to succeed Udall The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority The legal scandal that no one is talking about MORE (N.M), Tom MacArthur (N.J.), Andy Barr (Ky.), Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerNorth Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race Obama political arm to merge with Holder-run group MORE (N.C.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Lloyd SmuckerLloyd Kenneth SmuckerLawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good How to keep government running when lawmakers fail to do their job Key Dem chairwoman opposes bill to automatically avoid shutdowns MORE (Pa.), John Culberson (Texas) and Barbara Comstock (Va.).

Choose your own adventure: There's good and bad news for both parties in recent polling, so go and tweet about the results that fit your narrative and ignore the other stuff!

For the Democrats out there, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (D-Mo.) leads Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley by 6 points in a new poll from the Democratic Senate Majority PAC; Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP angst grows amid Trump trade war Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to Trump border wall from Afghan forces, other accounts MORE (D-Mont.) is ahead of state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) by 8 in a new Gravis poll; and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLabor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners Labor leader: Trump has stopped erosion of coal jobs Overnight Energy: States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules | Greens seek hearing over proposed rule on energy efficiency tests | Top Dem asks GAO to investigate climate threat MORE (D-W.Va.) leads Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by around 9 points in a Monmouth poll.

And for you Republicans: Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw Lawmakers introduce legislation to improve cyber workforce funding MORE (R-N.D.) leads Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) by 4 points (within the margin of error); and in Ohio's special House election, state Sen. Troy Balderson leads Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor (D) by 11 points in a new JMC poll.

And there's more news for all of us tracking the GOP Senate primaries.

In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law McSally to introduce military sexual assault reform bill MORE holds a 14-point lead over former state Sen. Kelli Ward. Both though tower over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the new poll by OH Predictive Insights.

And over in Wisconsin, Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson leads state Sen. Leah Vukmir by 5 points, within the margin of error.

 

What we're watching for

The big event on the calendar tonight is President Trump's visit to Duluth, Minn., where he'll shine a light on what's one of the most competitive states in the nation this fall, as Ben wrote about last year.

We've got more primaries coming around the bend too--Tuesday marks the New York congressional primary, as well as primaries in Maryland, Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma. Oh yeah, Mississippi and South Carolina hold primary runoffs on Tuesday, too.   

 

The paper chase

The Senate map is starting to come into focus as candidates, committees and outside groups begin to dump money on the air. NBC News has this handy chart that lays out the current spending landscape.

  

Coming soon to a TV near you

North Dakota's Kevin Cramer is dusting off the old GOP playbook in a new ad that attacks Heitkamp for supporting ... Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection What the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Steve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push MORE (!) way back in 2016. While Cramer and other Republicans have expressed frustration with President Trump's friendly relationship with Heitkamp, Cramer will finally gets his long-awaited wish: a Trump campaign-style rally in Fargo next week.

Wisconsin's Vukmir, fighting in her GOP primary against Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson, released a new ad that shows her sitting next to a holstered pistol. In the ad, she talks about threats she faced while in the legislature as well as her work with GOP Gov. Scott Walker. She's looking to catch fire after winning the state GOP nomination earlier this spring.

Indiana's Senate race is also heating up with since Republican Mike Braun won the primary to face off against Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyObama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 Ralph Reed: Biden is a 'formidable and strong candidate' MORE. That race is seeing a slew of new ads. Senate Majority PAC has one ad hitting Braun and lauding Donnelly. Donnelly's camp went up with a spot over the weekend. Braun also dropped an ad of his own Wednesday.

The internet was abuzz this week with former George W. Bush White House ethics chief Richard Painter's new ad, where he stands behind a video of a literal dumpster fire to describe the Trump White House. Painter switched parties and is running as a Dem for Minnesota Sente.

And over in the House, the Chamber of Commerce is coming to the aid of GOP Rep. Dan Donovan (N.Y.) as he looks to fend off a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Michael Grimm.

 

Wave watch

We're 20 weeks out from the midterms and as our Reid Wilson puts it (with a little help from Donald Rumsfeld) there are some big "known unknowns" that could upend the midterm calculus. It's unclear how Mueller's Russia investigation, the economy, Trump's tariffs and the diplomatic dance with North Korea will play out. Read Reid (so sorry) for more on how the GOP is bracing for surprises this election season.

Cook Political Report brought some good news for Democrats, moving KY-06 (GOP Rep. Andy Barr vs. Democrat Amy McGrath) and VA-10 (GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock vs. Democrat Jennifer Wexton) in the party's direction.

The DCCC announced a solid May haul of $11.3 million while the NRCC raised $5.1 million over the same time. Both organizations have the same cash on hand.

The RNC brought in $14.6 million that month as it continues to rake in cash (h/t Playbook), while we're still waiting for the DNC to file its monthly report.

The wave watch isn't as dire over in the Senate, but this analysis from the Weekly Standard's David Byler is a good thing to bookmark for the next few months. Right now, he says the GOP has a 69.3 percent chance of holding the Senate.

 

In case you missed it

The New York Times's Adam Liptak has a deep dive on how the Supreme Court punted on what could have been a landmark case on partisan gerrymandering.

The Kansas City Star's team discovered that Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's husband has $1 million in an investment tied to the Cayman Islands, which is regularly used as a tax haven.

Our very own Lisa Hagen gives us the low-down on the two millennials challenging longtime New York Democratic Reps. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyDems walk Trump trade tightrope The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again Meet the only candidate focused on national security: Seth Moulton MORE and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyDem lawmaker wears firefighter jacket at Met Gala to tout support for 9/11 bill Congress holds first Equal Rights Amendment hearing in 36 years amid ratification push Congress should join the campaign for constitutional equality MORE from the left.

McClatchy's Alex Roarty travels to Modesto to sketch out how Democrats are looking to use the issue of health care to defeat California Republican Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections MORE.

Alex Thompson with Vice discovered a shady group that spent $1,900 on Facebook ads in the tight Virginia GOP Senate primary. The ads appear to have been done in violation of campaign finance law.

Our Ben Kamisar checks in on one of the tightest House races this cycle, where Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is in the fight of his life.

Politico's Alex Isenstadt has the scoop on a strange story about Rudy Giuliani working to oust an incumbent congressman.

 

What they're saying

Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist and contributor to The Hill, argues that the entire GOP will suffer for the Trump administration's border policies.

Dan Palmer, a GOP strategist and contributor at The Hill, believes that the past few weeks have shown Trump to be the "pragmatist" that he promised the American voters he'd be on the campaign trail.