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 ClintonHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Ex-Clinton aide: Dems should make 2020 'about integrity' Trump mounts Rust Belt defense MORE at her New York home and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhat should Democrats do next, after Mueller's report? Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez's engagement win Obama's endorsement Pence lobbies anti-Trump donors to support reelection: report 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 WatersPelosi rejects any classified briefings on Mueller report Man who threatened to kill Obama, Maxine Waters faces up to 20 years in prison Dems concerned impeachment will make Trump 'appear like a victim,' says pollster MORE (Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWhat should Democrats do next, after Mueller's report? GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Jeff Sessions returns to Justice Department to retrieve Cabinet chair MORE, as well as billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. The Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzGOP turns Venezuela into Florida attack line Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight 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 Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off 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 KavanaughKavanaugh to teach summer course in England GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left 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 SessionsAs Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary' 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 HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 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 DeSantisGillum launches voter-registration campaign Republicans need solutions on environment too Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump 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 NoemKentucky House approves bill to let people carry concealed guns without a permit Journalists seek federal, state support for right to inform the public The Hill's 12:30 Report: First test for Trump emergency declaration 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 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.) continues to widen his lead against 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.) 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 CruzCountdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Ex-Clinton aide: Dems should make 2020 'about integrity' Cruz: House 'fully intends' to impeach Trump MORE (R-Texas) a 5-point lead over Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeBiden, Sanders edge Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups in Fox News poll Here's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements 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 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.) 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) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times 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 RohrabacherProgressives come to Omar's defense Expanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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 McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change 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 BaldwinTrump mounts Rust Belt defense On 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 MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He'll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Biden, Sanders edge Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups in Fox News poll O'Rourke tests whether do-it-yourself campaign can work on 2020 stage 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 Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Senate throws hundreds of Trump nominees into limbo 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 LeeDem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris receives endorsement from 6 home-state mayors 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. IsraelWhat should Democrats do next, after Mueller's report? The importance of moderate voters Five questions for Beto O'Rourke 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.