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
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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.

 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes 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 WarrenBloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states Obama cautions 2020 hopefuls against going too far left What are Democrats going to do once Donald Trump leaves office? 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.

 

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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. FitzpatrickHillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-affiliated accounts after lawmaker pressure GOP lawmakers express concerns about Giuliani's work in Ukraine MORE (Pa.), Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (N.J.), Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrKentucky Democrat moves closer to McConnell challenge Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Unlikely allies push horse racing reform MORE (Ky.), John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company Bottom line MORE (Texas) and Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers 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 PittengerBottom Line North 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 MORE (N.C.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Lloyd SmuckerLloyd Kenneth SmuckerRising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Lawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good How to keep government running when lawmakers fail to do their job 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 McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts 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) TesterTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Veterans face growing threat from online disinformation MORE (D-Mont.) is ahead of state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) by 8 in a new Gravis poll; and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics 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 CramerGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden 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 McSallyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths 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.

 

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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.

  

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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 ClintonWhat are Democrats going to do once Donald Trump leaves office? Trump to hold campaign rally in Florida later this month Krystal Ball accuses Democrats of having 'zero moral authority' amid impeachment inquiry 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 DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand 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) CrowleyThe Democrats' generational battle Ocasio-Cortez apologizes for blocking ex-politician on Twitter, settles lawsuit Ocasio-Cortez on public life: 'Sometimes I just want to be a human being' MORE and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTop House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments Maloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Appeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records 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-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties 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.