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Election Countdown: Trump plans ambitious travel schedule for midterms | Republicans blast strategy for keeping House | Poll shows Menendez race tightening | Cook Report shifts Duncan Hunter's seat after indictment

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). Click here to sign up.

 

We're 76 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 804 days until the 2020 elections.

 

President Trump seems to live by the mantra "go big or go home." And, that's what he's angling to do in the midterm elections.

White House aides announced on Tuesday that the president is set to undertake an ambitious travel schedule this fall to stump for Republicans in House, Senate and gubernatorial races across the country. All told, he's looking to spend at least 40 days on the campaign trail between Aug. 1 and Election Day.

That means he'll be campaigning nearly one out of every two days this fall - more than any president in recent history.

By comparison, Trump's predecessor, former President Barack Obama, spent 36 days traveling in the final months of the 2010 midterm elections. That same year, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House, ceding control of the chamber to Republicans.

 

Traditionally, the president's party loses seats in midterm election years. This year, the GOP's hold on the House is seen as particularly vulnerable. Democrats need to pick up at least 23 seats in November to reclaim control of the chamber. On the other hand, The Senate poses less of a threat to GOP power. Democrats are defending more than two-dozen seats in 2018, including several in states that Trump won in 2016.

 

For now, Trump's travel will focus on Senate races. But officials insisted that the schedule would remain flexible to allow the president to pivot quickly to the districts and states where he's needed the most.

 

Read our story on Trump's travel plans.

 

 

Primary wrap-up

Trump's endorsement in Wyoming's GOP gubernatorial primary fell short. The president's candidate of choice, conservative mega-donor Foster Friess, was defeated Tuesday by Wyoming state Treasurer Mark Gordon. But Trump's endorsement came late in the game - after voters were already heading to the polls - leaving it unclear whether it factored into the race at all.

 

Trump's pick in Wyoming's Republican Senate primary had a better night. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) easily took the party's nomination on Tuesday, putting him on track for a third term in office. He beat out Dave Dodson, a first-time candidate who poured more than $1 million of his own funds into the campaign.

 

In other Wyoming news, geologist and consultant Greg Hunter won the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in November.

 

And Alaska's gubernatorial election is set to be a three-way brawl between incumbent Gov. Bill Walker (I), former Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Republican former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy. Three-way races are notoriously hard to forecast, but if voters are split between Walker and Begich - and polling lends credence to that scenario - it could give Dunleavy a path to victory in November.

 

 

Senate showdown

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) pumped an addition $6.5 million of his personal fortune into his Senate campaign ahead of the state's Aug. 28 primary, federal filings show. Scott turned heads earlier this year when he announced a whopping $22 million fundraising haul in the second quarter of 2018 - far more than the $4.4 million raised by his Democratic opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). $14 million of that haul came from Scott himself.

 

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam gave a combined $25 million to the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) in July, according to the super PAC's most-recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing. The two $12.5 million contributions came two months after the Adelsons gave $30 million to the House GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF).

 

 

Survey says...

A Marquette University Law School poll shows a dead heat between Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and her Republican challenger Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin's Senate race. The incumbent carries a 49-47 percent lead among likely voters. That's well within the survey's 4-point margin of error. But among registered voters, Baldwin's lead increases to 51-43 percent.

 

Sen. Bob Menendez's (D-N.J.) lead in his reelection bid is shrinking, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. That survey showed the New Jersey Democratic leading his Republican challenger Bob Hugin 43-37 percent - a significantly closer margin than a March Quinnipiac poll that gave Menendez a 17-point lead over Hugin.

 

Democrats lead Republicans by 5 points on the generic House ballot, a new Monmouth University poll released Wednesday finds. Forty-eight percent of registered voters said they would favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared to 43 percent who said they would choose the Republican candidate. The survey shows a slightly smaller lead for Democrats than past polls. In June, a Monmouth survey showed 48 percent of respondents favoring Democrats, while 41 leaned Republican.

 

 

Paper chase

Lots of new fundraising numbers this week. With July fundraising numbers coming in, here's a breakdown of where some of the big committees stand:

 

The Republican National Committee brought in about $14.2 million last month - it's best July for a non-presidential election year to date - according to its Federal Election Commission filing. That's nearly double the $7.2 million that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raked in.

 

But it's not all bad news for Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported a $13.5 million haul in July, while the GOP's House campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) brought in $10.2 million, per their FEC filings.

 

In super PAC world, the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund reported raising a whopping $26 million last month - it's largest monthly fundraising haul for a July. By comparison, the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC reported raising just under $7.4 million, it's FEC filing showed.

 

House Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with Democratic House leadership, raised $3.7 million in July, according to its most-recent filing.

 

 

What we're watching for

There are just two more primaries left in August. Florida and Arizona voters head to the polls on Aug. 28. Oklahoma is also set to hold primary runoffs that day.

 

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is holding it's summer general meeting in Chicago from Aug. 23-35, where party members will decide on whether to reduce the role of superdelegates in nominating presidential candidates.

 

 

Coming to a TV near you

It's another big week for ads. The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), launched a series of near-identical ads accusing four Minnesota Democratic House candidates of standing by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in the face of domestic abuse allegations. Among the hopefuls targeted were Angie Craig, Joe Radinovich, Dan Feehan and Dean Phillips, who are all running in competitive races.

 

The group also released TV and radio spots this week targeting Democrats in New York's 22nd District, Kentucky's 6th District and Kansas's 2nd District.

 

Former President Barack Obama cut a digital video for Illinois Democratic gubernatorial hopeful J.B. Pritzker, the brother of Obama's former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. The clip - which could soon be turned into a TV ad, Politico reports - marks Obama's first video on behalf of a candidate in the 2018 cycle and serves as the latest signal that the former president is planning to return to a more prominent role in politics.

 

The progressive super PAC American Bridge 21st Century is setting its sights on the general election, launching a digital ad this week that takes aim at Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who's vying for the GOP's Senate nomination in Arizona. The spot casts McSally as a flip-flopper on issues ranging from Trump's proposed border wall to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

 

 

Wave watch

Republicans are venting frustration with the NRCC's midterm elections strategy, complaining that the House GOP campaign arm is making a serious strategic mistake by foregoing August TV advertising. Per The Hill's Jonathan Easley: "The criticism underscores GOP tensions heading into the midterm elections, when the incumbent president's party traditionally loses congressional seats. Election handicappers are giving Democrats favorable odds of winning back the House, with FiveThirtyEight saying there's a 73 percent chance Democrats will take control of the chamber."

 

An interesting midterm prediction from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The No. 2 House Republican seems confident that Democrats won't see the "wave" election in November that they're gunning for. "This could be a tornado, but it won't be a wave," McCarthy told The Washington post. "A tornado touches down in spots. A wave crashes over everybody."

 

Hillary Clinton is set to wade back into campaign politics this fall. The former secretary of State and 2016 presidential contender will headline three events for the DNC beginning in September, NBC News reports. She is also planning events with women running in key congressional races.

 

 

In case you missed it

The Cook Political Report shifted its rating for Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-Calif.) seat to "Lean Republican" from "Solid Republican," after the Congressman was indicted for the misuse of campaign funds.

Hunter was indicted Tuesday after being charged with misusing at least $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.

In a post, David Wasserman, House Editor for Cook Political Report, also said it may further move its rating for the race in California's 50th District.

 

Democratic House hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended her decision to bar members of the press from attending a public town hall, saying that she wanted residents of vulnerable communities to feel "safe." Ocasio-Cortez, a first-time candidate and self-described democratic socialist, was initially called out on the move on Friday by a Washington Post reporter, who warned that the New York Democrat was "in for a rough time on Capitol Hill -- where reporters roam freely at all hours of the day and night -- if this is her attitude toward the press."

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tested his brand of progressivism in Florida last week, making a trip down to the Sunshine State to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in Tampa and Orlando. While Gillum is hoping that the joint appearances will help push him across the finish line in the state's Aug. 28 primary, some Democrats are skeptical that Sanders' political movement has a place in Florida. The campaign appearance "doesn't make a lot of sense for Florida, because Bernie never caught on in Florida," one longtime Democratic operative said.

 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is leading his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas), by four points among registered voters, according to a NBC News/Marist poll released Wednesday. Cruz has 49 percent support among registered voters in the survey, with 45 percent for O'Rourke. About 6 percent of voters remain undecided.

 

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the likely Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona, says that she does not support Medicare for All, a centrist stance at odds with her party's progressive wing.

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