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 EllisonFormer Sanders aides launch consulting firm Minnesota AG will defend state's abortion restrictions despite personal views Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups 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 KavanaughLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' Sen. Susan Collins: Israel should allow Omar, Tlaib to visit 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 HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-N.D.) and thinks things are moving in the right direction in the race for Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand 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 BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump 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 ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up 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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate MORE (R-Texas). The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Texas' high-profile Senate race shows the incumbent Republican leadling Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession 2020 Democrats feel more emboldened to label Trump a racist Hillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation 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 SmithReid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Senate Democrats introduce bill to combat foreign influence campaigns Durbin says he has second thoughts about asking for Franken's resignation MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Nearly 4 in 5 say they will consider candidates' stances on cybersecurity The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE have substantial leads in their respective Senate races, with polls showing a double-digit advantage over their Republican opponents.

 

Democrat Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayWatchdog agency must pick a side: Consumers or scammers Kraninger's CFPB gives consumers the tools to help themselves House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau 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 BrownThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Dayton Democrat launches challenge to longtime GOP rep Dayton mayor: Trump visit after shooting was 'difficult on the community' MORE (D-Ohio) is up 18 points over his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciMedicare for All won't deliver what Democrats promise GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, 'investigation would have wrapped up very quickly' House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci 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 ComstockProgressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers GOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door 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 BidenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE will hold a rally with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (D-Ind.) in Hammond, Ind. on Oct. 12.

--Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties Chris Cuomo: 'I should be better than the guys baiting me' 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 McSallyFighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Air Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick Ex-FBI official names right-wing extremism one of the biggest security challenges for 2020 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 RyanEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' 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 SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' 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 HarrisJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate 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.