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 NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.) is getting a boost from a prominent ally: former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget The Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection Trump: Foreign countries want Biden in office so they can continue 'ripping off' the US 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE.

Biden has already held rallies for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenLawmakers introduce legislation to improve cyber workforce funding Dem lawmakers accuse DHS, HHS of giving them misleading information on family separations This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE (D-Nev.), who's running against Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.); Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyObama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 Ralph Reed: Biden is a 'formidable and strong candidate' MORE (D-Ind.); veteran Amy McGrath, who's running against Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrDying on the track: Horse racing is at a crossroads On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs 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 CruzCruz slams Jim Carrey's 'vicious, angry' painting of Alabama governor after abortion ban Eye-popping number of Dems: I can beat Trump 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults 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'RourkeBeto O'RourkeOvernight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems 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 TrumpCohen says Trump attorney told him to say Trump Tower talks ended earlier than they did Cohen told lawmakers that Trump lawyer Sekulow instructed him to lie about Moscow tower project: report Ukraine's top prosecutor says no evidence of wrongdoing by Bidens 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 SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection California Democrats face crisis of credibility after lawsuits Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel 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 face new civil war in primary fight 18 state attorneys general call on Justice Dept to release Mueller report Keith Ellison: Evidence points to Trump being 'sympathetic' to white nationalist point of view 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) TesterGOP angst grows amid Trump trade war Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to Trump border wall from Afghan forces, other accounts 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 HandelFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race McBath fundraising off 'get back in the kitchen' remarks Ex-GOP lawmaker Handel to run for her former Georgia seat in 2020 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 McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate 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 ClintonThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection What the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Steve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push 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 BaldwinThis week: House to vote on bill to ban LGBTQ discrimination Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to Trump border wall from Afghan forces, other accounts 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure 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 HarrisThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection California Democrats face crisis of credibility after lawsuits Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' 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 YoungIowa Republican ousted in 2018 says he will run to reclaim House seat The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Anxiety grows in first tax season under Trump law 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.