Election Countdown: Two weeks to midterms | Hollywood donors flood Dems with cash | Trump camp to spend over $20M on midterms | Biden rallies Florida Dems | What to watch in Georgia gov debate

Election Countdown: Two weeks to midterms | Hollywood donors flood Dems with cash | Trump camp to spend over $20M on midterms | Biden rallies Florida Dems | What to watch in Georgia gov debate
© 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 for the newsletter.

 

We're 14 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 742 days until the 2020 elections.

ORLANDO -- Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonEx-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight 2020 party politics in Puerto Rico MORE (D-Fla.) is getting a boost from a prominent ally: former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBeto could give Biden and Bernie a run for their money Biden: 'I have the most progressive record of anybody running ... anybody who would run' H.R. 1 falls short of real reform MORE.

Biden appeared alongside Nelson and Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, in Tampa and Jacksonville on Monday, to help the candidates in their already-high-profile races.

For Nelson, Biden's appearance comes at a particularly crucial time in his reelection bid against Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Most public polls suggest a tight race, and it's no secret that Scott is ready and willing to pump millions of dollars of his personal fortune into his campaign (which he already has).

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The governor has indefinitely suspended his appearances on the campaign trail as he tends to the recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which rammed into the Florida Panhandle earlier this month. In the days and weeks since, Scott has taken to the airwaves to talk about his administration's handling of the storm. Simply put, Nelson can't compete with that earned media. That's where Biden comes in.

"I haven't met anyone, in all my years, with more character, courage and decency than Bill Nelson," Biden said in Tampa at the Monday rally.

Biden continued his tour with Nelson on Tuesday, stumping for the senator in downtown Orlando. And while Nelson could get a bump from the former vice president's appearance, it comes amid speculation that Biden could mount a 2020 bid for the White House. Florida is a key presidential primary state.

 

Biden has also paid visits in recent weeks to other crucial primary states, like Nevada and South Carolina, suggesting that he may be testing the waters of a presidential run.

Biden has been active on the campaign trail to help deliver majorities for the Democrats. He's hoping he can leverage his popularity and ties to working-class Americans to help Democratic candidates be successful this cycle--and ultimately test if he's still a viable party leader who could take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE.

Biden has already held rallies for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE (D-Nev.), who's running against Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.); Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-Ind.); veteran Amy McGrath, who's running against Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrKentucky radio host: Schumer recruit can't beat McConnell On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (R-Ky.); and Democrat Mikie Sherrill, another veteran running to in the race to replace retiring Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action MORE (R-N.J.). Biden will also head to New York on Friday to boost Democrat Antonio Delgado in his bid to unseat Rep. John FasoJohn James FasoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE (R-N.Y.).

 

Make sure to follow The Hill's Max Greenwood as he travels around Florida this week for in-depth coverage of the Sunshine State's hotly contested gubernatorial, Senate and House races.

 

Senate showdown

Trump called Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers O'Rourke: Being a white male not a disadvantage in 2020 Dem field MORE (R-Texas) a "really good friend of mine" on Monday when he opened a massive Houston campaign rally for Republicans. The president recounted parts of their rocky relationship, but noted that they have put their differences aside. Trump traveled to Texas as Cruz seeks to fend off a challenge from Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says voters aren't interested in 'personal attacks' like GOP tweet O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail MORE (D) in one of the country's most closely watched Senate races. Still, recent polls show Cruz comfortably leading.

 

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpConservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech's censorship expands GOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Trump Jr. defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation at vigil for New Zealand attacks MORE visited Indiana on Monday rallying in support of Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, who's competing in a top-tier race against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). He also came to boost Greg Pence, a Republican congressional candidate and Pence's older brother.

 

Wave watch

Democrats have softened their tone on the potential of a "blue wave" two weeks before Election Day. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said on CNN that he doesn't use the term "blue wave" and has always thought that 2018 would be close. Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (I-Vt.) told "Rising" Hill.TV co-host Krystal Ball "I don't believe it" when asked about the possibility of a blue wave. Some say this rhetoric may be meant to encourage voters to turn up at the polls; others point to concerns over voter purges in key states like Georgia. But some Democrats insist that winning 23 seats to take back the House does in fact amount to a "wave."

 

With two weeks to go before Election Day, Cook Political Report has shifted eight House races toward Democrats and two toward Republicans in the heated battle for the House. The election forecaster is giving Democrats the edge in these races following the party's fundraising success in the third quarter of the year. Some of the biggest moves include shifts towards Democrats in three open-seat races in Florida's 6th, 15th and 27th districts.

 

Survey says...

Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonDemocrats upset over Omar seeking primary challenger Tlaib: There's Islamophobia in the Democratic Party Democrats allow anti-Semitism to spread with their weak resolution MORE (D-Minn.), the Democratic candidate for Minnesota attorney general, is trailing Republican Doug Wardlow by 7 points in a new Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll. Wardlow leads 43 to 36 percent, while 17 percent say they're still undecided. Ellison is currently battling allegations that he physically abused an ex-girlfriend in 2016, which he has denied.

 

In some of the nation's tightest House races, Democrats are leading Republicans by 3 points. According to a Washington Post/Schar School poll, 50 percent of likely voters collectively support their Democratic candidates and 47 support the Republican candidate in 69 competitive districts.

 

The Indiana Senate race is in a dead heat, according to a Indianapolis Business Journal Poll released on Monday. Among likely voters, 41 percent back Donnelly, while 40 percent are behind Braun. Donnelly's lead is well within the poll's 4.6-point margin of error.

 

In Montana, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (D-Mont.) leads Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale by three points, 46 to 43 percent, in the Montana State University/Montana Television Network poll.

 

Rep. Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Dem whose son was killed in shooting: Gun violence is the real national emergency, ‘not a wall’ DCCC official says Democrats look to make 'big gains' in Texas, Georgia MORE (R-Ga.), who won a hyper-competitive special election in 2017, leads her Democratic opponent, Lucy McBath, by 4 points, according to a new JMC Analytics poll. Handel leads McBath, who's a gun control activist, 49 to 45 percent, with 6 percent undecided.

 

And in governor's races, Gillum holds a 6-point lead over DeSantis in Florida's gubernatorial race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, leads with support from 52 percent of likely voters, compared to 46 percent backing DeSantis, a former U.S. congressman.

 

Paper chase

Trump's campaign said Tuesday that it will spend a total of $20 million on the 2018 midterms. That includes: $11 million on more than 30 rallies across the country, $6 million on a TV and digital ad buy that'll run starting on Monday and a $3 million transfer to the Republican National Committee (RNC). The campaign already donated a total of $214,000 in August to 107 Republican candidates in top Senate and House races.

 

Hollywood Democrats are funneling money into the midterms with the hopes of flipping the House, according to FEC data analyzed by The Hill's In The Know columnist Judy Kurtz. Some big names include Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin and Paul Rudd. For example Streep and actor Jack Black each donated $10,000 in September to a joint fundraising committee that benefits Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Dem candidate has Hawley served subpoena at CPAC Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 MORE's (D-Mo.) campaign, according to FEC data. McCaskill faces a tough challenge against Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.

 

Trump is hosting a Washington, D.C. fundraiser on Thursday for GOP House candidates Jay Webber of New Jersey, Ross Spano of Florida and Carol Miller of West Virginia, Politico reported.

 

What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE will attend fundraisers for Gillum in south Florida on Oct. 23

--Former President Obama will campaign in Wisconsin for gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOn The Money: Trump issues emergency order grounding Boeing 737 Max jets | Senate talks over emergency resolution collapse | Progressives seek defense freeze in budget talks Dems offer bill to end tax break for investment-fund managers Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot on Oct. 26.

 

Trump rallies:

--Oct. 24 in Mosinee, Wis.

--Oct. 26 in Charlotte, N.C.

--Oct. 27 in Murphysboro, Ill.

 

Debates: (All ET)

--Oct. 23: Georgia gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m.

--Oct. 24: Florida gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m.; New Jersey Senate debate at 8 p.m.

--Oct. 26: North Dakota Senate debate at 8 p.m.

 

Coming to a TV near you

New ads are up on the air in Nevada's marquee Senate race, according to The Nevada Independent. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is out with two new, positive Spanish-language ads that encourage people to "vote for results" and also touting the GOP's tax law. The ads come as both parties are heavily targeting the state's large Hispanic voter bloc.

 

Meanwhile, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) released a response ad to Heller's attacks about her experience. She highlighted times when she "worked across party lines," noting that Trump signed her VA legislation into law and that she broke ranks with House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run MORE (D-Calif.) and voted to permanently extend the individual tax cuts in the GOP tax law.

 

House Majority PAC, the major Democratic super PAC for the House, is looking to launch a huge ad blitz across 16 competitive House districts in the final two weeks of the midterms. Here's a list of the districts where ads will be airing: Ariz.-01, Calif.-10, Colo.-06, Fla.-07, Fla.-18, Ill.-12, Ill.-13, Minn.-02, Minn.-08, N.C.-13, N.Y.-19, N.Y.-24, Nev.-03, Texas-32, Wash.-08 and Wis.-06. Many of those ads specifically focus on health care, cuts to Social Security and the GOP's tax law.

 

Race for the White House

During her time in Iowa, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-Calif.), who's considered to be a 2020 White House hopeful, insisted that Iowa Democrats take advantage of early voting, The Hill's Naomi Jagoda reports from Ankeny, Iowa. Harris is making her first campaign visit in 10 years to Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. She's traveled to the state to boost Democrat Cindy Axne, who is challenging GOP Rep. David YoungDavid Edmund YoungThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Anxiety grows in first tax season under Trump law Iowa New Members 2019 MORE in Iowa's 3rd District.

 

Odds and ends

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are set to face off on Tuesday night in the first debate of their closely watched gubernatorial race. Here are five things to watch in tonight's debate.

 

A racist robocall that targets Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is dialing up Florida voters, according to NBC News

 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) joked at a campaign rally that his opponent in the state's Senate race, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), could join 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a "double-occupancy" prison cell.

 

Facebook on Tuesday introduced a new "ad archive report" for political advertisements and revealed that it is the top spender for such ads on its own platform. The company has spent $12 million to tout election security reforms and to urge voters to vote.

 

The Hill's Election Countdown was written by Lisa Cohen, Max Greenwood, Kenna Sturgeon and James Wellemeyer.