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 CartwrightOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell delivers fierce attack on Medicare for all | Barr defends efforts to overturn ObamaCare | Senators push drug industry 'middlemen' over prices Dems demand answers on Trump officials' decision not to defend ObamaCare Barr defends administration's efforts to overturn ObamaCare in court 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 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.) called Trump's performance "pathetic," while 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.) described it as "disgraceful" and 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.) tweeted that Trump abdicated "his national security responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief."


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race 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 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.) 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 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 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 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. 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 BaldwinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts 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 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 (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) 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.) 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 BlackburnPro-Trump super PAC hiring new executive director Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls 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 SmithK Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop 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) 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.) 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 HeitkampFormer senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Pro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA 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 ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE.


And in another state where Trump overwhelmingly won, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is accusing Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed 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 RohrabacherMueller probe: A timeline from beginning to end Progressives come to Omar's defense Expanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea 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.