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 NelsonLobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.) is getting a boost from a prominent ally: former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' How will COVID-19 affect the Hispanic vote come November? 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 TrumpTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order MORE.

Biden has already held rallies for Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit The Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D-Nev.), who's running against Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.); Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.); veteran Amy McGrath, who's running against Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrHouse GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 Put entrepreneurs, workers and flexibility in next stimulus package McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force MORE (R-Ky.); and Democrat Mikie Sherrill, another veteran running to in the race to replace retiring Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenBottom line Republican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm 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 most expensive congressional races of the last decade The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads 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 CruzState Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House 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'RourkeO'Rourke on Texas reopening: 'Dangerous, dumb and weak' Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House O'Rourke slams Texas official who suggested grandparents risk their lives for economy during pandemic 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 TrumpTrump Jr. hits Howard Stern for going 'establishment,' 'acting like Hillary' Trump Jr., GOP senator lash out at Facebook for taking down protest pages on stay-at-home orders Trump jokes he'll 'look into' pardon for 'Tiger King' after asked by reporter at virus briefing 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 SandersBiden wins Hawaii primary Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden Julián Castro to become senior advisor for Voto Latino 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 EllisonReporter harassed for wearing a mask while covering a restaurant reopening-turned-protest Minnesota restaurant owner backs down from plan to reopen after state AG sues Minnesota's highest court rules state has authority to change name of Lake Calhoun back to its Dakota name 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) TesterSenate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections Senators request emergency funding for postal service in next coronavirus bill On The Money: Black workers may face disproportionate COVID-19 risk | Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog vows independence | Stocks inch higher as oil prices rise 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 HandelTrump lends support to swing district Republicans How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle The Hill's Campaign Report: 200 days to Election Day 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 McCaskillSenate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: 'Millions of Americans' want someone other than Trump, Biden Senators poke fun at Warner over tuna melt: 'I think you're doing it wrong' 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 ClintonTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill 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 BaldwinKlobuchar and Harris could bolster Biden in the Midwest Legal challenges to stay-at-home orders gain momentum Democrats press USDA on worker safety at meat processing plants 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 PelosiTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' Federal aid to state and local governments should rely on real numbers 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 HarrisTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues 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 YoungTrump lends support to swing district Republicans Former 'Apprentice' contestant ranks Trump next to Mother Teresa on women's issues Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report 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.