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 ClintonHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE at her New York home and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBudowsky: 3 big dangers for Democrats HuffPost says president's golfing trips to Trump properties cost taxpayers over 0 million in travel and security expenses Support for same-sex marriage dips 4 points from 2018 high: Gallup 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 WatersKey House committee obtains subpoenaed Trump financial documents from two banks: report Nancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency MORE (Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder: 'There are grounds for impeachment' in Mueller report Prosecutor appointed by Barr poised to enter Washington firestorm Dems struggle to make Trump bend on probes MORE, as well as billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. The Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzCongressional Women's Softball team releases roster Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences House panel advances bill to block military construction funds for border wall 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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' 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 KavanaughGraham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Maker of 'F*ck Trump' lipstick vows to donate proceeds to reproductive rights groups 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 HunterHouse ethics panel renews probes into three GOP lawmakers GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter accused of violating 'parole' after pretending to cross US-Mexico border Challenger outraises embattled California rep ahead of 2020 rematch 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 DeSantisDHS official: Florida one of the 'best' states on election security, despite 2016 Russian hack Florida teacher arrested for loaded gun in backpack told reporter: 'Ask DeSantis' Trump officials not sending migrants to Florida after backlash 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 NoemTrump touts 'BIG FIREWORKS' returning to Mt. Rushmore for July 4 American Indian tribe bans GOP governor from reservation over opposition to Keystone protestors New governors chart ambitious paths in first 100 days 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 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.) 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 CruzJim Carrey fires back at 'Joe McCarthy wanna-be' Cruz Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech MORE (R-Texas) a 5-point lead over Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Biden retains large lead over Sanders, other 2020 Dems in new Hill-HarrisX poll The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems 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) MenendezEnding the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison 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 RohrabacherMueller probe: A timeline from beginning to end Progressives come to Omar's defense Expanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight 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 BaldwinWarren vows to fight 'tooth and nail' for LGBTQ protections as president This 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 MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He'll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Lee, Sanders introduce bill to tax Wall Street transactions 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 IssaFive times presidents sparked controversy using executive privilege GOP plots comeback in Orange County The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress 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 LeeLee, Sanders introduce bill to tax Wall Street transactions Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war 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. IsraelThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes The lonely world of Justin Amash Israel needs bipartisan support 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.