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 NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups MORE (D-Fla.) is getting a boost from a prominent ally: former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona Giuliani says he discussed Biden with Ukrainian official 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 TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE.

Biden has already held rallies for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Key endorsements: A who's who in early states 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 DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (D-Ind.); veteran Amy McGrath, who's running against Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrMcConnell campaign criticized for tombstone with challenger's name McConnnell launches statewide attack ad against Democratic Senate challenger Kentucky Democrat announces challenge to GOP Rep. Andy Barr 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 CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters 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'RourkeABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash 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 TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report 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 Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona 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 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-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) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown 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 HandelGOP Georgia congressional candidate withdraws after calling himself a 'white nationalist' Freshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race McBath fundraising off 'get back in the kitchen' remarks 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 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.) 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 ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid 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 BaldwinRecessions happen when presidents overlook key problems Trade wars and the over-valued dollar Overnight Health Care: Senate panel advances drug pricing bill amid GOP blowback | House panel grills Juul executives | Trump gives boost to state drug import plans | Officials say new migrant kids' shelter to remain open but empty 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 PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored 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 HarrisPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona Rising Warren faces uphill climb with black voters Inslee drops out of 2020 presidential race 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 YoungChurches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress Iowa Democrat calls foul on White House over Trump ethanol tour invite 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.