Election Countdown: Calls to abolish ICE test Dem candidates | First round of House GOP 'Young Guns' | How Tester is handling Trump's Montana visit | Dem candidate won't back Schumer as leader | Super PACs ramp up Missouri ad buys

Election Countdown: Calls to abolish ICE test Dem candidates | First round of House GOP 'Young Guns' | How Tester is handling Trump's Montana visit | Dem candidate won't back Schumer as leader | Super PACs ramp up Missouri ad buys
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This is Election Countdown, The Hill's new newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Ben Kamisar (@BKamisar) that brings you the biggest stories on the campaign trail.  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).

 

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We're 124 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 852 days until the 2020 elections.

 

The movement to "Abolish ICE" is gaining steam on the left as progressives fight back against the Trump administration's controversial border policies.

The challenge to Immigration and Customs Enforcement isn't entirely new--activists have been hammering at the agency, including on social media, for months.

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Some candidates, such as Wisconsin Democrat Randy Bryce, who is running to replace retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.), jumped on board early, with calls to get rid of the agency.

But the debate has gained new prominence with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the insurgent progressive who toppled Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyOcasio-Cortez responds to Trump calling her a 'young bartender': The 'last guy who underestimated me lost' Progressives hammer DCCC over blacklist targeting primary challenges Beto could give Biden and Bernie a run for their money MORE (D-N.Y.) in a shocking primary victory.

Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most vocal proponents of abolishing ICE and her rise in the party is giving the proposal new momentum on the left.

2020 maneuvering: Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Cory Booker releases 10 years of tax returns Buttigieg gets first congressional endorsement MORE (D-N.Y.) became the first senator to call for eliminating ICE less than two days after Ocasio-Cortez's victory. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenColbert links large 2020 Dem field to Avengers: 'A group of every available person in the universe' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Sanders dominates, Buttigieg surges in 2020 social media battle MORE (D-Mass.) have followed suit. But others are trying to walk the line -- Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe symbol of 'Wakanda' and black political vision Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Sanders dominates, Buttigieg surges in 2020 social media battle MORE (D-Calif.) said ICE should be "critically re-examined," while Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Biden's sloppy launch may cost him MORE (I-Vt.) said the agency should be restructured.

The polling: While the push may be gaining steam in some progressive circles, it's not a broadly popular policy. Data released this month through The Hill's partnership with the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that just 31 percent of registered voters back the push to disband ICE. The proposal is more popular on the left, with 41 percent of Democrats supporting it, but just 27 percent of independents and 22 percent of Republicans.

Republicans see an edge: Those polling numbers are why Republicans across the country have seized on the issue in the hopes of framing Democrats as out of touch with the American public on immigration. That includes President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE who has tweeted about it.

Messaging wars: Republicans are convinced the calls to abolish ICE will hurt Democrats in the midterms. Democrats, though, say they aren't sacrificing border security. Ocasio-Cortez has said that the Justice Department, not Homeland Security, should have oversight over many of those responsibilities and that the focus is on reining in an agency that's gone too far. Regardless of who wins the messaging fight, the debate is sure to put pressure on many Dems.

 

Senate showdown

Trouble for leadership?: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) told Politico in an interview that she won't vote for Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) if she wins the Arizona Senate election. She's the first candidate to buck Senate Dem leadership; House candidates have been much more willing to cross House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats are playing voters on their fantasies for impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (D-Calif.). Don't forget: Sinema in 2016 also voted against Pelosi.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBiden says he will run for president in 2020: 'We have to remember who we are' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Dems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions MORE (D-Calif.) is telling the state party to stay out of her general election fight, according to the Los Angeles Times. State Senate Leader Kevin de León (D) came close to clinching the state party's primary endorsement in February, but Feinstein finished leagues ahead of de Leon in the June "top two primary."

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE (D-Mont.) called talk of impeaching Trump "inappropriate" and "premature" in an interview with HBO's "Vice News Tonight." And to coincide with Trump's visit to Montana, Tester took out full-page ads to thank the president for signing legislation the senator backed. Tester is seen as one of the most vulnerable Dems... more on that below.

 

The paper chase

Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection agency limps into 2020 cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Dems charge ahead on immigration MORE (R-Ky.) are continuing to signal their biggest priorities of the cycle. In its second round, Senate Leadership Fund reserved $16 million in fall TV ads in Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia. That brings its current spending to $40 million.

Two major Democratic super PACs, Priorities USA and Senate Majority PAC, teamed up to launch a six-figure ad buy that takes aim at Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley's record as Missouri's attorney general. Hawley is expected to face 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) in the fall. Meanwhile, the Missouri GOP voted to allow the RNC to spend money to boost Hawley ahead of the August primary, according to the Kansas City Star.

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Weld: 'We would be much better off with a President Mike Pence' Gabbard: Trump, Pence 'try to hide the truth' of Saudi-inspired terrorist attacks from Christian supporters MORE will hold a fundraiser for Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnPro-Trump super PAC hiring new executive director Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls MORE (R-Tenn.) on July 21 in Chattanooga. Tennessee's Senate race is quickly becoming a battleground that outside groups are prioritizing.

A new super PAC in Arizona -- DefendArizona -- is going all-in for establishment favorite GOP Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing MORE. The group is reserving $5 millionin general election TV ads to boost McSally in her Senate campaign.

Speaking of tons of money... Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) released his financial disclosure, which showed he has a net worth of more than $232 million. That's $83 million more than last year.

 

What we're watching for

Trump is headed to Montana tonight for a rally where we can expect more fireworks about Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who faces a tough reelection race in a state Trump won by 20 points.

FEC reports for the second fundraising quarter (money raised and spent between April and June) are due on July 15. House reports will be up at midnight, but the Senate is notoriously slower since candidates don't have to file electronically.

There are no July primaries, but we'll finally get results in two primary runoffs. In Alabama, Rep. Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyOcasio-Cortez: 'I was stopped because it was assumed I was an intern' Insurgency shakes up Democratic establishment Dem House candidate claims Russians tried to hack campaign website MORE (R) is defending her seat on July 17. And in Georgia's gubernatorial GOP runoff, secretary of State Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Casey Kagle will square off on July 24.

 

Coming to a TV near you

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kelli Ward's latest ad is another opportunity to tie herself close to Trump. She faces a competitive three-way primary on Aug. 28 for retiring GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE's seat. The latest ad touts her support for Trump's border policies.

Ohio Democrat Danny O'Connor, who is running in next month's special House election, is up with a new spot that talks up his crossover appeal.

 

Wave watch

Another Dem who won't back Pelosi: Democrat Kathy Manning, a top recruit running against Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddBlockchain could spark renaissance economy GOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution MORE (R-N.C.), wrote that she won't supportPelosi for speaker, adding to the growing list of Dem congressional candidates who won't back her in leadership.

The NRCC unveiled its first round of the campaign committee's "Young Guns" program, signaling what races will be priorities for House Republicans this fall. The initial list includes 11 races where Republicans are on offense or defending an open-seat currently held by the GOP: Here are the districts and the candidates: CA-39: Young Kim; CA-49: Diane Harkey; MN-08: Pete Stauber; NC-09: Mark Harris; NJ-11: Jay Webber; NV-03: Danny Tarkanian; NV-04: Cresent Hardy; OH-16: Anthony Gonzalez; PA-07: Marty Nothstein; PA-08: John Chrin; WA-08: Dino Rossi

Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence announces more endorsements --Jason Crow in CO-06 and Antonio Delgado in NY-19. It is also backing Democratic nominee Rep. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado governor signs 'red flag' gun bill Colorado governor expected to sign net neutrality bill Colorado sheriff says 'red flag' gun bill doesn't address mental health MORE in the Colorado governor's race.

Former President Obama showered praise on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying at a DCCC fundraiser in northern California that she'll "once again be one of the greatest Speakers we ever have after we get through this cycle."

Can it be competitive? The DCCC has sent a Washington, D.C. operative back to South Carolina's 1st District in the wake of GOP Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans Mark Sanford warns US could see ‘Hitler-like character’ in the future MORE's primary defeat, reports McClatchy's Emma Dumain. It would be a longshot, but Democrats are apparently taking a second look at Democrat Joe Cunningham. Cunningham is running against Republican Katie Arrington. Arrington defeated Sanfofd but she is now recovering from serious injuries suffered in a car crash.

The DNC is launching two new initiatives on Thursday--a talent bank meant to find staff for both the 2018 and future cycles, and five new volunteer training sessions across the country.

 

In case you missed it

The Huffington Post's Daniel Marans and Kevin Robillard report on how Ocasio-Cortez has quickly become a kingmaker within the Democratic Party. She's so far endorsed nine congressional candidates and has fundraised for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). Khanna was on the only House Dem to endorse her bid against Joe Crowley.

The Hill's Sylvan Lane dives into how Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who ruffled feathers by encouraging the public to confront Trump officials over their policies, is done with "nice guy politics."

NBC News dropped a bombshell report on Tuesday about accusations that Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe MORE (R-Ohio), the House Freedom Caucus founder exploring a bid for Speaker, ignored the sexual abuse of wrestlers he coached at the Ohio State University years ago. Three wrestlers claimed Jordan knew about the abuse, but the congressman has denied the allegation.

The Hill's Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke look at how the controversy could complicate Jordan's possible bid for speaker.