Election Countdown: Ohio special election fight heats up | Takeaways from Georgia primaries | Key primaries ahead in August | Blankenship files for third-party bid in West Virginia | More Dem candidates say they won't back Pelosi

Election Countdown: Ohio special election fight heats up | Takeaways from Georgia primaries | Key primaries ahead in August | Blankenship files for third-party bid in West Virginia | More Dem candidates say they won't back Pelosi
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This is Election Countdown, The Hill's weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Max Greenwood (@KMaxGreenwood) that wades through 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 Max at MGreenwood@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please).


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We're 104 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 832 days until the 2020 elections.


The money race is heating up in the final weeks before Ohio's special election on Aug. 7, where Democrats are trying once more to flip a GOP-leaning suburban House seat.

Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the high-stakes fight between Democrat Danny O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson 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).

Here's a spending breakdown (according to a source tracking the advertising market):

Republicans are still outspending Democrats. The Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) remains the race's biggest GOP spender, with $1.9 million spent or reserved. CLF has been a big player in each of the key House special elections this cycle. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has also increased its spending to nearly $611,000. Balderson, a state senator, was endorsed by President Trump over the weekend.

For O'Connor's campaign, the cavalry has arrived in the final stretch. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has upped its spending to about $323,000. The DCCC jumped in for the first time last week with an initial $240,000 buy. And other national Democratic groups are coming to O'Connor's aid. House Majority PAC, Priorities USA Action and For Our Future are pumping $140,000 into a digital ad and ground campaign running through Election Day.

O'Connor may need the extra boost – especially as he prepares to fend off what are sure to be more GOP attacks following a somewhat-forced acknowledgement that he could end up voting for House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.) if a Democratic speakership was on the line.

O'Connor campaigned for months on a call for new leadership in both parties. During a Tuesday night interview, MSNBC's Chris Matthews repeatedly pressed him on whether he'd support Pelosi for Speaker. O'Connor said no multiple times, but when Matthews again asked if he'd support her in a pinch, O'Connor eventually conceded: "I would support whoever the Democratic Party put forward."

Less than 24 hours after the interview, CLF was already on the attack with a new TV ad claiming that O'Connor "would side with Nancy Pelosi, not you." And there's probably more ads like that on the horizon.


Primary recap

Georgia held primary runoffs on Tuesday for several statewide and federal offices and here is the main takeaway: It was a good night for Trump-backed candidates and women.


Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) sailed to the GOP nomination over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), winning by nearly 40 points. That's a huge comeback from the state's May primary when Cagle finished in first place. Kemp got a huge boost when Trump endorsed him.

Kemp now faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former minority leader in Georgia's state House and the first African-American woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor.


And in two key House races, female Democratic candidates won their respective runoffs, continuing the winning streak of women in congressional races this cycle. In the 6th District, gun-control activist Lucy McBath bested businessman Kevin Abel. And in the 7th District, professor Carolyn Bourdeaux defeated David Kim, the founder of a tutoring company.


Race for the White House

The Hill's Reid Wilson explores when and how potential 2020 hopefuls will announce their presidential campaigns. Expect a mad dash after November. "There will be a starting gun on the race as soon as this election is over," an adviser to a likely 2020 candidate predicted to Reid.


Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHarris, Booker call for judgement on Jussie Smollett case to be withheld until investigation is completed Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Jussie Smollett case shows media villainizing Trump and his supporters, without proof — again MORE (D-N.J.) raked in nearly $1.1 million between April and June, according to an FEC filing – his largest quarterly haul since the beginning of 2018. The rumored 2020 presidential contender ended June with $3.5 million in the bank. And he's continuing to help 2018 Democrats on the campaign trail, most recently endorsing Mike Espy, a former congressman and Agriculture secretary running in Mississippi's special Senate election.


Senate showdown

Senate fundraisers: As the battle for the Senate heats up, so does the money race. Vice President Pence raised money for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta MORE's (R-Pa.) Senate bid in Philadelphia. Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpHouse chairman: Trump lawyers may have given false info about Cohen payments Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump dismisses Ann Coulter after criticism: 'I hardly know her' MORE hosted a fundraiser on Monday for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). And on Thursday, there will be a pair of fundraisers in D.C. to raise money for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R). Trump was in Kansas City on Tuesday, where he reportedly held a fundraiser for Hawley. At a veterans event earlier in the day, he called the attorney general up on stage and touted his work in office.


Republican Kevin Nicholson, who's challenging Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE (D-Wis.), worked as a consultant for companies that laid off nearly 1,900 workers since 2015, the Associated Press reports. A spokesperson for his campaign rejected the idea that Nicholson or the firm that he worked for, ghSMART, had any role in advising companies to lay off employees.


Ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate MORE (D-W.Va.), filed paperwork on Tuesday to run as the Constitution Party's Senate candidate. Blankenship could face a legal challenge to his third-party bid.


Survey says…

Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) is leading Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Pennsylvania New Members 2019 Pennsylvania Dem: Trump has proven he's 'interested in negotiating' MORE (R-Pa.), 51-39 percent in Monmouth University's new poll. Lamb's lead over Rothfus bodes well for the Democrat, who picked up widespread name recognition after he beat out Republican Rick Saccone in the March special election. The 17th district became more favorable for Democrats' under the state's new map.


The poll also found that Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano holds a 9-point lead over his primary challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a young African-American woman who has been dubbed "the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Massachusetts." Worth noting: 33 percent of voters say they are still undecided.


Voters think Democrats running for Congress are increasingly out of step with mainstream politics, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Fifty-six percent say Democrats are "out of step" with more common beliefs, compared to 33 percent who say they're "in the mainstream."


Paper chase

Fundraising roundup: The Republican National Committee (RNC) posted strong fundraising figures in June, outraising the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by $6 million. The RNC raked in $14 million, compared to the DNC's $8 million. That leaves the RNC with $50.7 million cash on hand at the end of June – far more than the cash-strapped DNC, which reported $9 million cash on hand, with $6.3 million in debt.


But it's not all bad news for Democrats. The DCCC brought in $15.2 million in June, while the NRCC raised roughly half as much, $7.7 million, in the same period. And during the month of June, the DSCC narrowly outraised the NRSC, $5.9 million to $5.7 million.


What we're watching for

August is approaching and it'll be another busy month of primaries. You can check out the full list and breakdown from The Hill.


Trump will visit Dubuque, Iowa for a roundtable event on Thursday and will be hosted by Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), who faces a tough reelection race in a top-targeted seat. The president will hold a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla. on July 31. Politico Florida reports that Gov. Rick Scott (R) won't be at the rally, but will appear with Trump at a school visit and at a Senate fundraiser.


Coming to a TV near you

Wisconsin Republican Leah Vukmir, who's faces Kevin Nicholson in the GOP primary in three weeks, rolled out a new ad. The ad folds in cartoony graphics, as Vukmir vows to stand with Trump to "cut wasteful spending, build the wall and finally drain the swamp." Restoration PAC, which is backing Nicholson and is largely funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein, went up with a new $750,000 TV ad buy that touts the first-time candidate as a "new kind of leader."


Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.) is out with his first TV ad, a positive spot that highlights his work on disability benefits for veterans. He'll face Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump administration secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada MORE (D-Nev.) in a tough reelection race.


Wave watch

Democrats' Pelosi question: More Democratic House candidates are joining the growing chorus that they won't support Pelosi for speaker. The latest: Democrat Jason Crow, who's running to unseat Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Gardner, Portman endorse Trump for 2020 MORE (R-Colo.), Crow tells the Denver Post.


Speaking of the Speaker: The Democratic push to flip retiring Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) seat may have hit a stumbling block this week, with Democratic candidate Cathy Myers alleging that primary rival Randy Bryce improperly used $7,000 in campaign funds to settle a personal legal scuffle.

Meanwhile for Republicans, likely nominee Bryan Steil released his first TV ad Tuesday. "I don't care much for Washington-style politics, but I do know they need Wisconsin Steil solutions."


Democrat Perry Gershon, who's running against Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinFuror over Omar puts spotlight on AIPAC Zeldin slams Omar for 'lack of empathy' in her apology The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - All eyes on Trump after lawmakers reach spending deal MORE (R-N.Y.), said he was motivated to run for Congress because of the "parallels" he saw between Trump's political ascendance and Adolf Hitler's rise. Zeldin, who's been a fervent Trump supporter, is a top target for Democrats this cycle, despite Trump carrying the district by more than 12 points in 2016.


Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisMLB donated to GOP lawmaker who made controversial comments about women, minorities Minnesota New Members 2019 Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Medicaid expansion gets extra boost from governors' races | Utah's expansion to begin April 1 | GOP lawmaker blames McCain for Dems winning House MORE (R-Minn.) has come under fire again after audio resurfaced last week of comments he made in 2012 that African Americans have an "entitlement mentality" and see themselves as victims. Lewis, who also drew ire for derogatory comments about women, dismissed the report as an "attack" on his campaign.


Election Countdown was written by Lisa Hagen, Max Greenwood and Jesus Rodriguez.