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 ClintonAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris rips Gabbard over Fox appearances during Obama years Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE at her New York home and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Debate gives Democrats a chance to focus on unaddressed issues of concern to black voters Is Joe Biden finished? 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 WatersOn The Money: House passes monthlong stopgap | Broader spending talks stall | Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns | Progressives ramp up attacks on private equity Federal regulators clear BB&T-SunTrust merger, creating sixth-largest US bank Progressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity MORE (Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderPelosi refers to Sinclair's Rosen as 'Mr. Republican Talking Points' over whistleblower question Krystal Ball: Billionaires panicking over Sanders candidacy Obama celebrates 'great night for our country' after Democrats' victories in Virginia and Kentucky MORE, as well as billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. The Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Dem rep defends calling Ken Cuccinelli a white supremacist Both sides claim win in White House official's impeachment testimony 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 SchumerTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiKlobuchar shuts down idea a woman can't beat Trump: 'Pelosi does it every day' Budowsky: Trump destroying GOP in 2018, '19, '20 On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal 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 KavanaughGOP senator compares impeachment inquiry to Kavanaugh confirmation Christine Blasey Ford receives ACLU courage award Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy 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 SessionsBottom Line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - GOP snags mic with impeachment protest Former Pete Sessions staffer to comply with subpoena in federal probe investigating Giuliani, associates 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 HunterIndicted lawmaker Duncan Hunter fails to land endorsement from local GOP Duncan Hunter challenger raises over 0,000 in third quarter Trump says White House reviewing case of Green Beret charged with Afghan murder 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 DeSantisStates brace for massive voter turnout in 2020 When it comes to health care reform, look to the states, not the federal government  Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by failing to appeal to working class 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 NoemSouth Dakota governor doubles down on 'meth, we're on it' anti-drug campaign South Dakota drops pipeline protest laws after lawsuit New South Dakota law requiring 'In God We Trust' sign to hang in public schools goes into effect 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: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senators introduce bill to create 'parity' among broadband programs Senators introduce cybersecurity workforce expansion bill 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 CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-Texas) a 5-point lead over Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeDeval Patrick enters 2020 race O'Rourke says he 'absolutely' plans to stay in politics Krystal Ball: Buttigieg is 'the boomer candidate' 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 NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity 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) MenendezSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Graham blocks resolution recognizing Armenian genocide after Erdoğan meeting Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden 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 RohrabacherGeorge Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal 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 BaldwinIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems unveil impeachment measure; Vindman splits GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He'll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate 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 IssaWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' 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 LeeHouse to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill US must lead the charge on global reproductive rights — not stand in the way Congress should lift the ban on medical cannabis access for military veterans 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. IsraelIs Mayor Pete the man to beat? The bizarre circle of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg The Tea Party has died of hypocrisy 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.