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 EllisonIlhan Omar calls her election to Congress a rejection of ‘religious bigotry’ Minnesota New Members 2019 White candidates are never asked how they win minority-majority districts, says first Muslim congresswoman-elect 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 KavanaughChief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation Doug Jones: Carmakers 'scared to death' over Trump tariffs McCaskill: 'Kavanaugh spectacle' made the difference in midterm loss 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 HeitkampHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates MORE (D-N.D.) and thinks things are moving in the right direction in the race for Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington McCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate FEC votes to allow lawmakers to use campaign funds for personal cybersecurity 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 BlackburnOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — ObamaCare signups lag behind last year despite recent surge | Drug company offers cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent | CDC calls fentanyl deadliest drug in US GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand Incoming GOP congressman says vaccines may cause autism, contradicting CDC 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 ClintonLanny Davis says Nixon had more respect for the Constitution than Trump Clinton commemorates Sandy Hook anniversary: 'No child should have to fear violence' Sanders, Warren meet ahead of potential 2020 bids 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 TrumpAustralia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital, won't move embassy Mulvaney will stay on as White House budget chief Trump touts ruling against ObamaCare: ‘Mitch and Nancy’ should pass new health-care law 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 CruzBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report Pollster says likely Dem 2020 nominee has not emerged in national conversation yet O’Rourke links border wall with increase in migrant deaths MORE (R-Texas). The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Texas' high-profile Senate race shows the incumbent Republican leadling Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkePollster says likely Dem 2020 nominee has not emerged in national conversation yet O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race Joaquin Castro says brother Julián is running for president in 2020 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 SmithAl Franken reflects on 'the experience of women in this country' in Thanksgiving note Minnesota New Members 2019 Senate GOP beats expectations with expanded majority MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension MORE have substantial leads in their respective Senate races, with polls showing a double-digit advantage over their Republican opponents.

 

Democrat Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayMulvaney will stay on as White House budget chief Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff On The Money: Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming | Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff | China agrees to 3-month freeze of auto tariffs | Dem to seek Deutsche Bank records of Trump's personal finances 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 BrownDem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (D-Ohio) is up 18 points over his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run 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 ComstockTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Virginia New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president 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 BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race Joaquin Castro says brother Julián is running for president in 2020 MORE will hold a rally with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (D-Ind.) in Hammond, Ind. on Oct. 12.

--Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpIntel panel expects to refer more cases of suspected lying to Mueller Trump Jr. says his dad is a 're-gifter' Brzezinski apologizes after backlash over homophobic remark about Pompeo 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 McSallyArizona governor eyes several possible Kyl replacements The Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Jon Kyl to resign from Senate on Dec. 31 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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report Teen quits job at Walmart over intercom, tears into company over employee treatment O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race 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 HarrisBiden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report Pollster says likely Dem 2020 nominee has not emerged in national conversation yet O'Rourke doubles support in CNN poll of Dem presidential race 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.