Election Countdown: Bomb threats raise new fears about political violence | Texas race becomes ground zero in health care fight | Florida tests Trump's influence | Racial animus moves to forefront in midterm battle | Trump to rally in Wisconsin tonight

Election Countdown: Bomb threats raise new fears about political violence | Texas race becomes ground zero in health care fight | Florida tests Trump's influence | Racial animus moves to forefront in midterm battle | Trump to rally in Wisconsin tonight
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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 13 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 741 days until the 2020 elections.


Explosive devices targeting Democratic politicians and newsrooms have underscored a recurring theme in the 2018 midterms: political polarization is at an all-time high.

Less than two weeks before the election, the Secret Service found two "potential explosive devices" mailed to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP struggles with retirement wave Overnight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? MORE at her New York home and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama meets with Greta Thunberg: 'One of our planet's greatest advocates' Trump: Cokie Roberts 'never treated me nicely' but 'was a professional' Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE's Washington, D.C. residence. Meanwhile, CNN's newsroom in the Time-Warner building in Manhattan was evacuated after reports of a suspicious package.


Suspicious packages were addressed to other Democrats including Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching MORE (Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder says Trump is subject to prosecution after leaving office Eric Holder: Democrats 'have to understand' that 'borders mean something' Trump lawyers ask judge to toss out Dems' tax return lawsuit MORE, as well as billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. The Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDemocrats walk tightrope in fight over Trump wall funds Parkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns MORE (D) was also evacuated because a package sent to Holder used her return address.

The White House and Republican leaders condemned the threats and called for an end to political violence. Speaking at a White House event, Trump, who has previously criticized all of the people targeted this week, denounced the threats "abhorrent" and "egregious" and called for unity.

Democratic leaders, though, slammed Trump's words as "hollow." "Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (Calif.) said in a joint statement.


Some worry calls for unity may be too late. The attempted bomb attacks come in the final stretch of a midterm year mired by heated rhetoric and finger-pointing by both parties at their opponents.

Democrats largely blame Trump for the polarization in politics and rhetoric that stems from his attacks against political opponents. Meanwhile, Republicans -- and Trump himself -- have cautioned voters ahead of the midterms about a liberal "mob," specifically citing the protests that emerged after the contentious Supreme Court confirmation of Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump dismisses NYT explanation on Kavanaugh correction Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Katie Pavlich: The Democrats' desperate do-overs MORE.

It's unclear what effect the bomb threats will have on the midterms. But it's unlikely to change the attitudes of the GOP or Democratic bases, who appear more motivated than ever to mobilize for their party's candidates.


Read more from The Hill's Morgan Chalfant about those threats raising new fears.



Wave watch

The race for Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges MORE's (R-Texas) suburban swing district has become ground zero for the battle over health care and pre-existing conditions, The Hill's Lisa Hagen reports from north Dallas. Sessions's Democratic opponent Colin Allred has sharpened his attacks on pre-existing conditions and the GOP congressman's numerous votes to repeal ObamaCare. It's a strategy being employed across other swing districts and states as Democrats fight for the House majority. For his part, Sessions is highlighting a non-binding resolution he proposed last month that would give access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions.

In an interview with The Hill, Allred called that resolution a "political stunt," arguing that voters will see it that way. Meanwhile, Sessions lashed out at Allred and Democrats' for their "shameless attacks" regarding pre-existing conditions. The GOP congressman went further by arguing that Democrats will hurt economic progress by implementing "Medicare for All."


Race has moved to the forefront in a number of campaigns in this year's midterm elections that rivals that of past cycles, The Hill's Reid Wilson reports. There've been more blatant overtures of racial animus and strategists on both sides of the aisle link that to Trump. One example in California: GOP Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterCan Carl DeMaio save the California GOP? The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Issa says he will run for Congress if not confirmed to trade post by Nov. 3 MORE accused his Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is of Mexican and Palestinian descent, of "working to infiltrate" Congress. And in Florida's governor race, Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump parts ways with key Florida adviser: report Death and destruction: A timeline of Hurricane Dorian How to take politics beyond charges of racism MORE said after the August primaries that Democrat Andrew Gillum, who's black, would "monkey" up the state's economy.


Senate showdown

Trump's political influence is being tested in Florida, a perennial swing state that narrowly went for the president in 2016. Key races in the Sunshine State will serve as an early referendum on the president's standing, specifically in the nationally watched Senate and governor's races. The Hill's Max Greenwood dives into Florida's political landscape from Orlando.


Trump claimed Wednesday in a tweet that GOP candidates would "totally protect people with pre-existing conditions," trying to provide some cover for Republicans who voted to repeal ObamaCare. Republicans have been trying to show that they support protections for those with pre-existing conditions as they weather repeated attacks from Democrats on ObamaCare repeal. It's become a prominent issue in this cycle's top Senate races, where Republicans are looking to protect their slim 51-49 majority.



Survey says…

SHOCK POLL out of South Dakota: Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemNew South Dakota law requiring 'In God We Trust' sign to hang in public schools goes into effect Trump: If I say I should be on Mt. Rushmore, 'I will end up with such bad publicity' Transportation Department seeks to crack down on pipeline protests: report MORE (R-S.D.) and Democratic challenger Billie Sutton are tied just two weeks before the state's gubernatorial election, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll commissioned by the Argus Leader and KELO TV. Both candidates each won support from 45 percent of likely voters, with 9 percent still undecided.


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.) continues to widen his lead against 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.) in the only Senate race where a GOP senator is running for reelection in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Heller leads Rosen by 6 points, 47 to 41 percent, in a new Ipsos poll on Wednesday.


An Ipsos poll released Wednesday gives Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Ted Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report MORE (R-Texas) a 5-point lead over Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeOvernight Energy: Top presidential candidates to skip second climate forum | Group sues for info on 'attempts to politicize' NOAA | Trump allows use of oil reserve after Saudi attacks Five top 2020 Democrats haven't committed to MSNBC climate forum Yang campaign says it received 450K entries for 'Freedom Dividend' contest MORE (D-Texas). This result comes even as 52 percent of Texans say they are motivated to support a candidate who would oppose Trump. Trump threw his support behind Cruz at a rally with this week, calling him "beautiful Cruz" in a change of tone.


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.) leads Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 4 points, according to a new Gravis Marketing poll. Six percent of likely voters remain undecided about their choice.


Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.) holds a 5-point lead over GOP challenger Bob Hugin in New Jersey's Senate race, a Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics poll released Wednesday finds. Menendez, who was embroiled in a corruption case, has been seeing low enthusiasm. The trial ended in a hung jury and federal prosecutors later dropped the charges. Only 29 percent of Menendez supporters said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting for him.


A new Monmouth University poll gives Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE (D-Calif.) a 2-point lead over Democratic challenger Harley Rouda. This year's election has proven to be the toughest for the 15-term congressman. In July, Rohrabacher trailed his opponent by two points. However, with increasing approval of Trump and immigration a top concern in California's 48th district, the race seems to have slightly tipped in Rohrabacher's favor.



Paper chase

The Republican National Committee announced it will spend an additional $25 million, for a total of $275 million, on the 2018 midterm elections. That new spending includes: $10 million on digital get-out-the-vote efforts, $3 million on a texting program, and $3.5 million transferred to both the Republicans' House and Senate committees.


Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, launched a $2 million national TV ad buy linking Republicans to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE's (Ky.) recent comments where he said entitlements were driving the national debt.



What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Oct. 26: Former President Obama will campaign in Wisconsin for gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinFederal funding for Chinese buses risks our national security Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall The Trump downturn: Trouble ahead for the US economy MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He'll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency 2020 candidates keep fitness on track while on the trail Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? MORE (I-Vt.) will continue to hold rallies around the country, with his next stop in California. He'll hold a rally with Democrat Mike Levin, who's running for retiring GOP Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Issa says he will run for Congress if not confirmed to trade post by Nov. 3 The Hill's Campaign Report: Pressure builds for Democrats who missed third debate cut MORE's seat in California's 49th district.

--Oct. 27: Sanders will then travel up north for another California rally with Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe MORE (D-Calif.) in Berkeley. Lee doesn't face a competitive reelection race.

Trump rallies:

--Oct. 24 in Mosinee, Wis.

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

--Oct. 27 in Murphysboro, Ill.

Debates: (All ET)

--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.



Odds and ends

A debate on Tuesday between Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams (D), Brian Kemp (R) and Libertarian Ted Metz, was marked by hot-button issues, personal attacks and allegations of voter suppression. Read the five debate takeaways from The Hill's Rebecca Kheel and Emily Birnbaum.


The Hill's Reid Wilson reports breaks down the reason for Trump's visit to a rural town in Wisconsin, pointing to Republicans' concerns about turnout when it comes to Gov. Scott Walker's reelection race.


In an op-ed for The Hill, former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. Israel3D-printable guns will require us to rethink our approach on gun safety The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Can we trust polls in 2020? MORE (N.Y.), who previously served as chairman of the House Democrats' campaign arm, explored how Dems can counter fear that he believes has been stoked by Republicans, specifically pointing to rhetoric over the migrant caravan.