Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has $88M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas

Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has $88M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas
© Greg Nash

This is Election Countdown, The Hill's weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) that wades through the biggest stories on the campaign trail. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please).

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We're 111 days from the 2018 midterm elections and 839 days from the 2020 elections.


The battle for the House and Senate have at least one thing in common: Democrats are raising a ton of cash and are well ahead in the money game less than four months out from November.

Democrats' money advantage gives them an extra boost as the party looks to flip 23 seats in the House and the even tougher task of cutting into Republicans' slim 51-seat Senate majority.

Democrats' edge in second-quarter fundraising--money raised between April and June--is setting off alarm bells for Republicans, who already face tough headwinds in the midterms.


In the House, Democrats are repeatedly outraising GOP incumbents. More than 50 Democratic candidates brought in more money than the sitting GOP lawmakers they are challenging in the second quarter of the year. It's a trend we've been seeing all cycle and the number of Democrats outpacing GOP members keeps growing each fundraising quarter. Meanwhile, only one GOP candidate outraised a Democratic incumbent. Republican John Chrin raised more than Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightHouse Dems up funding for science agencies, ignoring proposed Trump cuts Overnight Energy: Dems press Interior chief to embrace climate action | Lawmakers at odds on how to regulate chemicals in water | Warren releases climate plan for military Interior chief dismisses climate concerns in first Natural Resources hearing: 'I haven't lost any sleep over it' MORE (D-Pa.).



Here's a rundown of other notable stats: Over 20 Democrats raised more than $1 million each. For context, House candidates in previous cycles typically raised six-figures, which were considered strong hauls. Raising a million is on par with some Senate candidates.

At least 14 Democratic candidates have more cash on hand than Republican incumbents. And in open-seat races, Democrats outraised their Republican rivals in 25 races. Meanwhile, Republicans outraised Democratic challengers in at least five open seats.


Meanwhile, in the Senate: My colleague Reid Wilson broke down Democratic candidates and outside groups' massive cash lead. Democrats running in the 10 most competitive Senate races have a combined $75 million in the bank, while their GOP opponents have a total of $33 million.

Same goes for the campaign committees and outside groups: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has twice as much cash on hand at the end of May as the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), $34 million compared with $16 million. And Democrats' Senate Majority PAC also had twice as much on hand compared to Republicans' Senate Leadership Fund: $29 million to $13.5 million.

Regardless, both parties will have plenty of money to go around, which is evident in their ad spending. Reid also reported that candidates and outside groups have bought or reserved over $270 million in TV ads across 11 states this year -- so brace yourself for the ad wars.


Race for the White House

Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin has dominated the news for three days and it's cleary on the minds of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. They've been using it as another opportunity to contrast themselves with Trump and rile up their base. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Judd Gregg: Counting the costs of Democrats' desires MORE (I-Vt.) called Trump's performance "pathetic," while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Amazon warehouse workers strike on Prime Day Elizabeth Warren backs Amazon workers striking on Prime Day MORE (D-Mass.) described it as "disgraceful" and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke 2020 Democrats upend digital campaign playbook Gillibrand speaks of how she benefits from white privilege MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted that Trump abdicated "his national security responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief."


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Biden pitches new subsidies, public option in health care plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE will continue to test the presidential waters by appearing at more Democratic campaign events after Labor Day. Biden, 75, is backed in the 2020 Dem primary by about one-third of registered Democrats, according to a recent poll, though he hasn't made a final decision.


And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Judd Gregg: Counting the costs of Democrats' desires Buttigieg: 'Medicare for all,' free college tuition are 'questionable on their merits' MORE (D-Calif.) secured a new book deal on Tuesday, raising speculation that she may run in 2020. Harris is expected to come out with "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey" in early 2019.


Senate showdown

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceJewish group plans DC protest to occupy ICE detention centers Trump to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants at US-Mexico border Pence aide: Trump's 'intent' wasn't racist MORE will speak at fundraisers for Republican Missouri Senate hopeful Josh Hawley and Illinois Rep. Mike BostMichael (Mike) J. BostMORE on Thursday. Pence is scheduled to tout the Trump administration's tax cuts at the events.


The California Democratic Party issued a stunning endorsement over the weekend to state Sen. Kevin de León, who's challenging 25-year incumbent Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip Senate confirms Trump's 9th Circuit pick despite missing blue slips MORE. De León is running as the progressive alternative to Feinstein. He received 65 percent of the state party caucus's support, while Feinstein got just 7 percent. Feinstein was also snubbed by the CDP at its February convention where she failed to clinch their endorsement prior to the June primary. But it is unlikely de León will beat Feinstein in the general election. She topped him by 44 to 12 in the state primary, which sends the top two finishers regardless of party on to the general.


Wisconsin Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson (R) came out with a scathing op-ed on Monday criticizing his own parents for donating to Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinHealth care needs transparency, and President Trump is making progress Senate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE (D-Wis.). He wrote that his mother and father "turned their back" on him and his immediate family. Nicholson faces state Sen. Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin's GOP primary on Aug. 14.


Conservative donor Robert Mercer has put $500,000 into a super PAC supporting Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward, according to Politico. Mercer hopes the PAC money will give Ward an edge over her GOP primary opponents, Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Democratic challenger to McConnell raises .5 million on first day of campaign Mark Kelly raised .2M for Arizona Senate bid MORE (R-Ariz.) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.


Survey says…

A new Marquette University poll found Vukmir now slightly ahead of Nicholson about a month before Wisconsin's GOP Senate primary. However, nearly one-third of primary voters are still undecided.


A new poll from Remington Research Group found Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (D-Mont.) narrowly leading state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) by 3 points, 49 to 46 percent.


The race between former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSocial media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings MORE (R-Tenn.) in the deep-red state remains wide open, according to new polls. One poll from a Democratic super PAC found Bredesen ahead by 3 points, while a survey from Trump-aligned Committee to Defend the President shows Blackburn up 3 points, though her lead is narrowing.


In House polls, 314 Action and polling firm Change Research released a poll that shows Democrat Joseph Kopser within striking distance of Republican Chip Roy in the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithAnti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm MORE (R-Texas). The poll finds that Roy leads by double-digits, but when voters are given messages about both candidates, the gap closes to a 2-point lead. 314 Action has backed a number of Democrats with STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) backgrounds running for office.


And in special election news, Republican Troy Balderson's lead is narrowing in the race to replace ex-Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R-Ohio). Balderson now leads Democrat Danny O'Connor by 5 points, 48 to 43 percent.


Paper chase

The DSCC reserved $30 million in late television advertising across six states: Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana (all states where Trump won and Democrats are on the defense) in addition to Arizona and Nevada (Democrats' two best pick-up opportunities).


The IRS altered donor transparency laws to allow people to donate to charitable organizations without public donation records. This change was praised by conservatives in Congress.


In more 2020 news, Trump has already raised $88 million for his reelection campaign, with $600,000 going to "Make America Great Again" hats, shirts, stickers, and other advertising supplies. His campaign has spent north of $1 million on legal fees this year. According to FEC filings, Trump has paid the law firm Jones Day about $180,000. He has also dished out roughly $54,000 to the two firms representing him in his legal battle with adult film star Stormy Daniels.


What we're watching

We're about three weeks away from the start of the August primaries. But before primaries start up again, there's one more GOP primary in Georgia's gubernatorial race. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and secretary of State Brian Kemp will square off on July 24.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyCBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Justice Democrats issues 3 new endorsements for progressive candidates Ocasio-Cortez responds to report that Trump compared her to Eva Perón MORE (D-N.Y.) last month, are campaigning together at Friday rallies in Wichita and Kansas City for progressive House candidates James Thompson and Brent Welder in Kansas.


Coming to a TV near you

The NRSC is out with its first TV ad of the cycle, taking aim at Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (D-N.D.) who's in one of the double-digit Trump states. The ad accuses Heitkamp of "pretending to be independent and bipartisan." And it brings up a favorite GOP boogeyman: Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton responds to Trump tweets telling Dem lawmakers to 'go back' to their countries The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president MORE.


And in another state where Trump overwhelmingly won, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is accusing Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (D) of "lying" to the president about key votes like ObamaCare repeal and the tax overhaul. Manchin ultimately voted against those measures.


Wave watch

Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE's (R-Calif.) name keeps popping up in the news this week. He's in one of the most competitive races in California this cycle, after 30 years in office and many easy reelection races.

He appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series "Who is America?" where he's seen backing a fake program to arm toddlers with guns. But Rohrabacher says he rejects that program and called the episode a "fraud.

And Rohrabacher said that in 2015, he met with Maria Butina, the Russian woman who was arrested Monday and charged with "conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General."

A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday gave Democratic nominee Harley Rouda a slight edge over Rohrabacher, who has drawn backlash from his comments that "we're all to blame" for Russia's 2016 election interference.


Election Countdown was written by Lisa Hagen, Caroline Gardner, Maya Lora, Jesus Rodriguez, Jasper Goodman, Zach Phillips, and Wyatt Schiff.