Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report
Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race
Welcome to Election Countdown, The Hill's weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Ben Kamisar (@BKamisar) bringing 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).
We're 118 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 846 days until the 2020 elections.
We're nearing the deadline for second-quarter fundraising reports, and so far, there have been three key takeaways in the battle for the Senate--Democrats are continuing to rake in contributions hand-over-fist, Republicans are improving, and holy cow, did Rick Scott raise a lot of money. Scott, who's running against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), set a record this cycle for the biggest quarterly haul: an eye-popping $10.7 million. Scott has loaned his previous campaigns tens of millions before, but that $10.7 million doesn't include any of his own money, making it more jaw dropping.
While we're waiting on Nelson's numbers, Senate Democrats in other red states are still padding their coffers with multimillion-dollar hauls. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) continues to set records, with her biggest haul to date: $4.3 million. And now all eyes will be on Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who hopes to take her Senate seat. Hawley's underwhelming fundraising has frustrated Republicans, prompting a shake-up of his finance team he hopes will spark fundraising
Here's a rundown of the others: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) raised $3.7 million; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) raised nearly $2 million; Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) raised $2.2 million; Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) raised more than $2.2 million.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the most vulnerable GOP senator, continues to be outpaced by his Democratic rival, Rep. Jacky Rosen. She raised more than $3.5 million, compared to Heller's $2.38 million. But he still has a cash advantage of $2 million.
Republican candidates, on the whole, are steadily improving now that most primaries are behind them. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey raised nearly $1.3 million in his bid against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Montana auditor Matt Rosendale raised over $1 million to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). And after self-funding the majority of his last fundraising haul, Rep. Jim Renacci (Ohio) raised $2 million, without candidate contributions. He's taking on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
In the House, Democrats are also raking in cash and we'll be keeping count of how many candidates continue to outraise Republican incumbents in the top battlegrounds. National Journal's Ally Mutnick has a helpful running list of Democrats raising more than $1 million.
Race for the White House
Senate Democrats are feeling the heat in entirely different ways over President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Vulnerable red-state Dems up for reelection in 2018 are being pressured to back Trump's pick, while those eying 2020 presidential bids are locked in a sprint to outdo each other in their opposition to Kavanaugh.
And while Democrats are still nowhere close to figuring out who their standard-bearer will be, The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans are already getting close to inking a deal to put their 2020 convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Axios and SurveyMonkey came out with a new poll of registered voters across Senate battleground states. It shows Republicans ahead in four key states (Tennessee, Florida, North Dakota and Indiana), while Democrats lead in 9 states (Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Montana, Wisconsin and Arizona). Those states where the GOP is leading will be among the toughest for Democrats to hold, but they've got to be happy with the double-digit margins in states like Arizona, West Virginia and Montana.
Democrats got some good news in North Carolina's 9th House district, where Dan McCready leads Republican Mark Harris by 7 points in a new Civitas poll. Democrats have grown more bullish on this red-leaning seat since Harris knocked off Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) in the primary.
And while Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke is running a historically strong challenge to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Cruz remains in the driver's seat in a new Gravis poll that has him up 9 points in the Senate race.
What we're watching for
We've got a brief respite from the break-neck primary calendar, but there are still two major races on the horizon. Alabama's primary runoff is July 17, when Rep. Martha Roby faces off against former Rep. Bobby Bright for the GOP nomination. And on July 24, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and secretary of State Brian Kemp square off in the GOP gubernatorial runoff.
Next week marks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's first visit to Capitol Hill. Expect large swarms of reporters surrounding the Democratic socialist who defeated the No. 4 Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). The Hill's Melanie Zanona previewed the visit, which is certain to rattle the Democratic establishment in D.C.
The "Abolish ICE" push may be gaining steam on the left--and sweeping up some of the Democratic Party's 2020 hopefuls--but the issue appears to be a non-starter for Senate Democratic candidates who need to keep moderates on board.
Puerto Ricans -- and Trump's response to Hurricane Maria -- are expected to play a big role in Florida's Senate race. Puerto Ricans are now the largest Hispanic group in Florida and the Democratic-leaning voter bloc is still frustrated by Trump's recovery efforts. Still, Scott has shown surprising strength among Puerto Ricans in the race against Nelson.
Coming to a TV near you
The Supreme Court fight over Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh is taking over the airwaves. Judicial Crisis Network, a big player in Justice Neil Gorsuch's confirmation fight, is gearing up for another pressure campaign. JCN launched a $1.4 million ad campaign targeting Democratic swing votes in four red states: West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana and Alabama. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heiktamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) are all up for reelection this year (and voted for Gorsuch), and Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) is up in 2020.
The Supreme Court confirmation fight will have major implications in a few other Senate races and Missouri Republican Josh Hawley is taking note. He's out with new TV and digital ads this week that questions if Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill will vote with Trump or stick with Senate Democrats and her base.
Aside from the confirmation fight, outsourcing attacks are popping up in dueling ads in Indiana. Donnelly's team launched a TV ad attacking Republican Mike Braun's business for relying on importing foreign goods. Meanwhile, Braun's campaign hit back with its own TV ad that criticizes Donnelly for his brother's company running a factory in Mexico.
The RNC is using its massive war chest to help the party shore up its defenses. NBC News reports that the party has made reached 20 million voters with door knocks or phone calls, and 487 million voter contacts in total as it looks to model and persuade the midterm electorate.
It may not be on the front pages, but there's another House special election in Ohio next month. Democrat Danny O'Connor is making a direct play for "Kasich Republicans," hopeful that the GOP civil war in his state has put more moderate Republicans into play. O'Connor is running for the House seat left vacant by Rep. Pat Tiberi's (R) retirement. Republicans are hopeful they'll be able to hold the seat thanks to the strength of their candidate, Troy Balderson. But they've all but given up in another GOP-held seat in New Jersey, where the NRCC has officially withdrawn support from its candidate, Seth Grossman, after a deluge of racist and anti-Muslim comments he made were uncovered over the past few months.
Rep. Kevin Yoder's (R-Kan.) race is starting to heat up--Pence campaigned with him on Wednesday, and The Washington Post did a deep dive into whether the progressive Democrat running in the primary can really turn the tide.
In case you missed it
Some high-profile Democratic House candidates have been raking in the cash thanks in part to viral videos that have turned their campaigns national. Politico Magazine caught up with the ad firm behind some of the most memorable ads of the cycle.
The Reno Gazette Journal is out with an investigation into Rep. Jacky Rosen's (D-Nev.) business career, something she touts regularly on the stump, raising questions about her work as a consultant. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) immediately seized on the report with a new ad.