Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas

Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas
© Greg Nash

This is Election Countdown, The Hill's 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 26 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 754 days until the 2020 elections.

 

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Democrats are worried that domestic abuse allegations leveled at Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonJudge threatens to put prison officials in same uncooled cells as inmates Minnesota students file federal lawsuit against school district alleging 'deliberate indifference' to racist incidents Former Sanders aides launch consulting firm MORE (D) could imperil their hold on the state's attorney general office, a post the party has held for nearly half a century.

Ellison faces accusations of abuse and assault from a former girlfriend. He has denied the charges, and an independent investigation funded by the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party could not corroborate the woman's claims.

But voters and Democratic activists here say the allegations are weighing on the party's prospects -- and, in some cases, their own thoughts about the liberal firebrand whose star seemed to be on the rise.

"Unfortunately, it's hurting him and Republicans are using it to bring down other Democrats," said Roberta Humphries, a retiree who volunteers for Democratic candidates.

Ken Martin, the chairman of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said the party does not see evidence in their own polling -- which they are conducting weekly -- that allegations against Ellison are dragging down candidates in other races.

But the DFL's handouts, which typically highlight their entire slate of candidates, now omit down-ballot contenders like Ellison, a hint that the party wants to steer clear of the controversy.

"It's going to be a close race. It shouldn't be a close race," Martin said in an interview. "It's a concern to me, it's a concern to all of the Democrats who work in politics in this state."

The best thing Democrats have going for them, strategists in both parties agree, is the Republican nominee, former state Rep. Doug Wardlow (R). Wardlow is running far to the right, and even Republican strategists say they wish they had fielded a stronger candidate.

 

But the GOP didn't expect to be competing for an open seat, or against Ellison. Incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) threw state political circles into chaos when she decided at the last minute to run for governor, a race she lost in the Democratic primary. Ellison jumped in to replace her in the attorney general contest, and only then did the allegations come out.

Polls show the race as close to tied as possible. Democrats hope they can make the race a binary choice, in a blue state in a blue year. But that may not be easy when their candidate faces such allegations.

The allegations "really disappointed me because I liked" Ellison, said Liz Fleming, a retiree in Bloomington who does not count herself as a Democrat or a Republican. "That will affect how I vote."

--Reid Wilson

 

Senate showdown

After the debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMajority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump On The Money: Supreme Court takes up challenge to CFPB | Warren's surge brings scrutiny to wealth tax | Senators eye curbs on Trump emergency powers MORE, Republicans are feeling increasingly optimistic about expanding their 51-49 seat Senate majority. The GOP has become even more bullish about their prospects of unseating Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.) and thinks things are moving in the right direction in the race for Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE's (D-Mo.) seat. The Hill's Max Greenwood breaks down the rest of the Senate map and the recent slate of polling that's been good news for Republicans.

 

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGraham, Van Hollen introduce Turkey sanctions bill Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show GOP senators say Erdoğan White House invitation should be revoked MORE (R-Tenn.) and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) battled it out during the final Senate debate in Tennessee's marquee Senate race. The two clashed on everything from Kavanaugh, to the border wall, to health care reform. Bredesen called for an end to hyper-partisanship in politics, while Blackburn hammered him on his support for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE in the 2016 presidential election. Read more about the five takeaways from Wednesday night's debate from The Hill's Lisa Hagen and Max Greenwood.

 

During a rally in Pennsylvania, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE urged Republicans to mobilize in the upcoming midterm election. While Trump was criticizing Democrats and boosting his administration's economic policies, Hurricane Michael reached the coast of Florida. The Hill's Niall Stanage gives a full rundown of the rally with on-the-ground details from Erie, Pa.

 

Survey says…

Good news for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump has had a rough October Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Texas). The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Texas' high-profile Senate race shows the incumbent Republican leadling Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkePoll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Authorities seize weapons from alleged neo-Nazi leader under 'red flag' law Super PAC seeks to spend more than million supporting Yang MORE (D-Texas) by 9 points, signaling that Democrats' already-narrow path to a Senate majority may be getting narrower.

 

Minnesota looks likely to stay blue, according to new polling from NBC News/Marist. Democratic Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Our hidden infrastructure crisis: School cafeterias MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Robert Reich sees Democratic race as Warren, Sanders and Biden: 'Everyone else is irrelevant' Democrats lead Trump by wide margins in Minnesota MORE have substantial leads in their respective Senate races, with polls showing a double-digit advantage over their Republican opponents.

 

Democrat Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayDemocrats jump into Trump turf war over student loans Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to consumer agency On The Money: Tax, loan documents for Trump properties reportedly showed inconsistencies | Tensions flare as Dems hammer Trump consumer chief | Critics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles MORE has gained a 6-point lead over Republican Mike DeWine in the Ohio gubernatorial race, according to a Suffolk University/Cincinnati Enquirer poll out Wednesday. Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCritics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles Trump administration blocked consumer watchdog from public service loan forgiveness program: report Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 MORE (D-Ohio) is up 18 points over his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciDemocrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Medicare for All won't deliver what Democrats promise GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, 'investigation would have wrapped up very quickly' MORE (Ohio), according to the same poll. These Democratic leads show a potential shift in a state that voted for President Trump in 2016.

 

Paper chase

Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic state senator challenging Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (R-Va.), raised $2.6 million between July and September, her campaign announced Thursday. The massive fundraising haul is more than triple what Wexton raised in the second quarter. Her campaign said the average donation was $54. Comstock has yet to announce her Q3 haul.

 

The National Democratic Training Committee, a group that trains and spends on Democratic candidates, reported raising nearly $1.4 million in the third quarter. It's a big uptick from its fundraising in the previous quarter, with over 126,000 donations from all 50 states.

 

What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Warren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE will hold a rally with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Ind.) in Hammond, Ind. on Oct. 12.

--Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Romney earns rants and raves for secret Twitter name DOJ: McGahn, Trump Jr. did not testify before Mueller grand jury MORE and Kid Rock will attend a rally in support of Michigan Senate candidate John James (R) on Oct. 17.

 

Senate Debate schedule:

--Friday night debate in Wisconsin

--Sunday night debates in Ohio and Michigan

 

Trump rally schedule:

--Friday rally in Lebanon, Ohio at 7 p.m. ET

--Saturday rally in Richmond, Ky. at 7 p.m. ET

 

Coming to a TV near you

Republican Josh Hawley is hitting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in a new ad featuring a clip of the two-term Democrat saying that she could "give up a few votes in the Bootheel" – the southeastern tip of Missouri – if she can win support in St. Louis County. "Claire McCaskill has given up on you," a narrator says in the 30-second spot.

 

Republicans are turning up the heat in Indiana, with new ads taking aim at Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). A new ad from Republican Mike Braun's campaign hits Donnelly on a host of issues including his vote against confirming Kavanaugh and support for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Meanwhile, top GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) is out with a new ad that continues to hammer Donnelly over outsourcing, specifically highlighting his family's business that operates a factory in Mexico. Donnelly sold his stock in the company last year after an AP report about the family business using Mexican labor.

 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched new TV and digital ads on Thursday touting tax reform in Arizona and Tennessee, which are home to open-seat Senate races where Republicans are playing defense. The ads highlight Blackburn and Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyPublisher announces McSally book planned for May release Singer Brandi Carlile drops out of Fortune event over Kirstjen Nielsen's appearance The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren MORE's  (R-Ariz.) votes in favor of the GOP tax law that was passed last year.

 

Wave watch

Outside groups are spending big in the race for North Carolina's 9th District, McClatchy DC reports. The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), is the latest group to drop money in the district, spending $1 million on television ads boosting Republican Mark Harris. In all, outside groups have spent more than $2.4 million in North Carolina this cycle.

 

Democrats have a major edge when it comes to support among female voters, but they have struggled to lock down another key voting bloc: Latinos. While midterm voter turnout among Hispanics has historically been lower than other demographic groups, many on the left have been hoping that President Trump's hard-line immigration policies and heated rhetoric will lead to a surge of energized Latinos at the polls in favor of Democrats on Election Day. But with less than four weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, there are signs that Democrats have room for improvement with Hispanic voters. The Hill's Melanie Zanona has the story.

 

Race for the White House

As Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Sanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Democratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' MORE (I-Vt.) continues to consider mounting at 2020 bid, he's increasingly focusing on California, which moved up its primary to March 2020, Politico reports. Sanders is planning a campaign appearance in late October in Oakland, but the specific area doesn't have a competitive House race.

 

He's not alone in making trips to California as a potential White House hopeful. Biden recently traveled to Orange County to boost Democratic candidates in top House races. And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Poll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Trump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special MORE (D) will likely travel back to her home state in the final stretch of the midterms.

 

Election Countdown was written by Rachel Cohen, Max Greenwood, Lisa Hagen and Reid Wilson.