Election Countdown: Takeaways from too-close-to-call Ohio special election | Trump endorsements cement power but come with risks | GOP leader's race now rated as 'toss-up' | Record numbers of women nominated | Latino candidates get prominent role in 2020

Election Countdown: Takeaways from too-close-to-call Ohio special election | Trump endorsements cement power but come with risks | GOP leader's race now rated as 'toss-up' | Record numbers of women nominated | Latino candidates get prominent role in 2020
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This is Election Countdown, The Hill's weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Max Greenwood (@KMaxGreenwood) 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 Max at MGreenwood@thehill.com. with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please).

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We're 90 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 818 days until the 2020 elections.

 

Tuesday (almost) marked the end of the House's competitive special election season. And while the results aren't finalized in Ohio--Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson leads Democrat Danny O'Connor by 1,754 votes--the special election still offers some clues heading into the last three months before the midterms.

 

Republicans are breathing a (temporary) sigh of relief. President Trump and Republicans have already declared victory and many are saying a "win is a win" regardless of the margin. But Republicans recognize the surge in Democratic enthusiasm especially in places where Trump easily won. Some Republicans are warning that GOP candidates will need to step up their fundraising--and won't be able to rely on the cavalry coming in to save them.

 

Democrats are feeling great about their midterm prospects. Democrats may not make up the ground they need to clinch a victory in the Ohio special election, but they're still counting it as a win. The party believes it's demonstrated its ability to perform competitively in GOP strongholds. It's places like the 12th district of Ohio that Democrats will need to capture to get the 23 seats needed to retake the House.

 

Expect a suburban showdown. We went through all the data and found that there are 68 GOP-held seats that are more favorable for Democrats than Ohio's 12th District. Forty-five of those seats are districts that Trump won by a smaller margin than in Ohio.

The other 23 GOP-held seats were carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE in 2016. A large swath of those districts are in suburbs where Trump's popularity may be waning.

 

One lingering question is over Trump's role in all of this. He went all-in for Balderson with several tweets and a Trump-style campaign rally. But Balderson's narrow lead calls into question whether the president can be helpful in general election contests.

 

 

Primary recap

Tuesday night was a breakthrough night for women candidates, with several notching wins in their primary contests.

 

In Michigan, former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer coasted to victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. And Kansas Democrats nominated state Sen. Laura Kelly to challenge the eventual Republican nominee for governor. Those wins bring the number of women nominated for governorships to 11.

 

Tuesday's slew of female victories didn't stop at the gubernatorial level. Women candidates picked up nominations in several House races, including Democrats Sharice Davids in Kansas's 3rd District, Gretchen Driskell in Michigan's 7th District, Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's 8th District and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan's 13th District.

 

While it was a good night for women candidates, it wasn't so good for Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations MORE (I-Vt.) and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The duo issued a series of endorsements ahead of the primaries on Tuesday, but ended the night with little success.

 

Democrat Brent Welder campaigned with the duo in the weeks before the primary, but was defeated by Davids. Likewise, Abdul El-Sayed lost his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, despite efforts by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to boost him. In Missouri's 1st District, Cori Bush, who was endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, also came up short in her bid to oust incumbent Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayDems split in response to 'impeach the motherf---er' comment Trump: Dem congresswoman 'dishonored' herself with profane call for impeachment Dems call freshman's impeachment remarks 'inappropriate' MORE (D) in the primary there.

 

One candidate backed by the duo, Democrat James Thompson in Kansas' 4th District, though did pull out a win on Tuesday. But Thompson, an attorney who lost last year in a special election against Rep. Ron EstesRonald (Ron) Gene EstesKansas New Members 2019 Cards Against Humanity offering midterm expansion pack in effort to back Dems in key races Worst-case scenario for House GOP is 70-seat wipeout MORE (R), had long been expected to secure the nomination.

 

Speaking of endorsements, it's also unclear whether Trump's will continue to carry the weight they have in several past primaries.

 

Trump's pick in Michigan's GOP gubernatorial primary, John James, emerged victorious on Tuesday night. But Balderson's slight lead over O'Connor left the race in Ohio's 12th District inconclusive. The same held true in Kansas, where Secretary of State Kris Kobach remained locked in a dead heat with Gov. Jeff Colyer in the state's GOP gubernatorial primary, despite winning Trump's endorsement a day earlier.

 

 

Race for the White House

With former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez eyeing potential bids for the White House, Latino candidates are gearing up to play their biggest role yet in presidential politics, The Hill's Rafael Bernal and Amie Parnes report. That could put issues central to the Latino experience, like immigration, at the forefront of the 2020 presidential race. "I think we need a candidate as a community to rally around and also to be a player in the presidential race," said former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

 

Several rumored Democratic contenders for the White House were nowhere to be seen at this year's Iowa State Fair, a known pilgrimage for possible presidential hopefuls. Popular figures like Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend MORE (D-Calif.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette Biden2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Kamala Harris picks Baltimore as headquarters for potential 2020 campaign: report MORE opted to campaign through quieter backchannels instead, even as attorney Michael Avenatti and Castro made trips to the state.

 

 

Senate showdown

DefendArizona, a super PAC led by wealthy donors who opposed Trump early on in his 2016 campaign, is dropping $958,000 to oppose Republican Kelli Ward, who's running against Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (R-Ariz.), The Arizona Republic reports. Ward has long cast herself as a staunch ally of Trump and has embraced some of his most controversial positions.

 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (R-Texas) asked President Trump to campaign for him in his race against Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Ex-Michelle Obama aide says O'Rourke's road trip is a 'listening tour' in form of a travel blog MORE (D). Cruz, who sparred bitterly with Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, acknowledged to the Houston Chronicle that his relationship with the president has had "ups and downs," but said he would "welcome" Trump's support on the campaign trail. "I think we are likely to see the president down in Texas before the election," he told the newspaper.

 

 

Paper chase

Priorities USA Action, a major Democratic super PAC, is spending $1.7 million on digital ads in August in key Senate races, according to a source tracking spending. The largest purchase is in Florida, where the group is dropping about $611,000. The other states include: Arizona, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Missouri and Wisconsin.

 

Red to Blue California, a PAC created by former Democratic congressional candidate Michael Eggman, is dropping more than $175,000 on a mail and digital campaign in California's 4th District to oppose Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockRep. Mike Johnson wins race for RSC chairman House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping House committee votes to relax Endangered Species Act MORE (R-Calif.).

 

The Committee to Defend the President, which is aligned with Trump, has pledged to spend $1 million to boost GOP Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBarr hearing marks first time Senate Judiciary has GOP women serving on panel Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Overnight Defense: Appeals court sides with Trump on transgender military ban | Trump threatens years-long shutdown | Trump floats declaring national emergency to build wall with military MORE in her Tennessee Senate bid.

 

The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and United Steelworkers announced a $3.1 million investment in four states with key Senate seats: Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Montana. That investment will focus on turnout field programs, mailers and advertising.

 

 

What we're watching for

Hawaii is holding a rare Saturday primary on Aug. 11. The next set of Tuesday primaries are on Aug. 14 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont.

 

 

Coming to a TV near you

Candidates and outside groups are rolling out a slew of ad spots, signaling the beginning of what is sure to be a marathon of political advertising ahead of the November elections.

 

In Arizona's Senate race, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) unveiled a new spot calling to "end the partisan nonsense" and find a solution on health care that includes coverage of pre-existing conditions. And in Ohio, Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordraySupreme Court should do what Congress won’t: Rein in the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Congress must restrain power of new consumer financial director Five challenges facing new consumer bureau chief MORE (D), the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief, is launching the first ad of his general election bid for governor. The spot highlights Cordray's career as a public servant and drops in a clip of former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump offers to limit his border wall to strategic locations Americans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent Pompeo’s retreat into chaos MORE.

 

On the GOP side, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is out with its first ad in West Virginia in the 2018 cycle, hitting Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Centrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Bipartisan group of senators will urge Trump to reopen government for 3 weeks MORE (D-W.Va.) as a detached Washington insider – and taking aim at the senator's "luxury yacht" docked in D.C.

 

In Tennessee, Blackburn is touting her ties with Trump in a new ad highlighting his endorsement. The spot features Trump speaking at a rally in Tennessee, and insisting that "we need Marsha Blackburn in the Senate."

 

 

Wave watch

Sabato's Crystal Ball is shifting Washington's 5th congressional district from leaning Republican to a toss up. The seat is currently held by a member of GOP leadership, Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices Washington governor announces killer whale recovery plan MORE, the House Republican Conference chair. McMorris Rodgers has held the seat since 2005 and won by nearly 20 points in 2016.

 

Trump is set to travel to upstate New York next week, where he'll headline a fundraiser for Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), Politico reports. Tenney, who has been an outspoken supporter of Trump, is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Anthony Brindisi and her seat is considered among the most vulnerable in the 2018 cycle.

 

If the Democrats take the House in November, 35 women are next in line to chair committees and subcommittees, nearly triple the amount of women currently in those leadership positions, The Hill's Mike Lillis reports. Democratic women argue this would help gender issues advance in Congress and ultimately encourage bipartisanship.

 

NBC News's Chuck Todd is predicting that Democrats could gain "40 to 60" seats in the midterms. "Democrats are now heavy favorites to take control of the House," Todd said Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today." "I think the question is, really, the size. Is it 30 seats, 40 seats, 50 seats? They have a night like this, like they did in Ohio, they could win 40 to 60 seats."

 

Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, on Wednesday identified 12 Republicans and pledged to back them with $2.5 million in ads.

 

 

In case you missed it

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination CNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony MORE (D-Minn.), is sounding the alarm over election security, saying she remains "very concerned" about a potential midterm election hack. Her remarks come a week after Senate Republicans foiled an effort to boost funds for election security.

 

Trump claimed credit for primary and special election victories for the candidates he has publicly supported via social media and at rallies in a series of tweets Wednesday. He says if he finds time to continue campaigning ahead of the November midterms, we will see a "giant red wave." But as The Hill's Reid Wilson and Jordan Fabian report, some of Trump's endorsements come with political risks.

 

A Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maryland was asked if he identified as a socialist. Ben Jealous denied, the charge, responding: "Are you f---ing kidding me?" His opponent in the race, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had called Jealous a "far-left socialist." Jealous later apologized to the reporter who asked him about Hogan's remarks, saying he had used "inappropriate language."

 

Election Countdown was written by Max Greenwood, Lisa Hagen, Jasper Goodman, Jesus Rodriguez, Maya Lora and Caroline Gardner.

 

Updated on Aug. 9 at 10:13 a.m.