Election Countdown: Latest glimpse at fundraising highlights Dem edge | Cook moves Menendez race to toss up | Heated Missouri Senate debate | O'Rourke scrambling to win Latino voters | Bloomberg spending big for Dem candidates | DNC talks 2020 debates

Election Countdown: Latest glimpse at fundraising highlights Dem edge | Cook moves Menendez race to toss up | Heated Missouri Senate debate | O'Rourke scrambling to win Latino voters | Bloomberg spending big for Dem candidates | DNC talks 2020 debates
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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 11 days from the 2018 midterm elections and 739 days from the 2020 elections.


Pre-general fundraising reports (Oct. 1-17) gave us one last glimpse into the high-dollar fundraising -- and spending -- that's happening in the final weeks of the midterms.

When it comes to the major committees and super PACs, Democrats outraised Republicans in the first two weeks of October--$110 million to $79 million--though the GOP groups had more cash on hand as of Oct. 17, according to Kenneth Vogel of The New York Times.


On the Senate side, there are some truly stunning numbers.


Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.) raised a $12.1 million in the first two weeks of October. That's a jaw-dropping figure for a two-week period, especially since she raised a total of $12.75 million over the course of 20 months.

It was the result of small-dollar donations that flooded into her campaign coffers after she announced her opposition to Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell has 17-point lead over Democratic challenger McGrath: poll Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Kavanaugh urged Supreme Court to avoid decisions on Trump finances, abortion: report MORE's confirmation. But even so, Heitkamp still trails behind her challenger, Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute McConnell tees up showdown on unemployment benefits Senate panel scraps confirmation hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee at last minute MORE (R), in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE won by nearly 36 points.

In Texas, Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeBeto O'Rourke calls Texas GOP 'a death cult' over coronavirus response Hegar, West to face off in bitter Texas Senate runoff Bellwether counties show trouble for Trump MORE (D) raised $8.4 million between Oct. 1 and 17, and during that time spent $21 million. He has $10.3 million cash on hand. That brings his cycle-to-date fundraising total to an eye-popping $70 million. But O'Rourke, like Heitkamp, is trailing in his contest. He's been consistently polling behind Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Democrats prepare seven-figure spending spree in Texas On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP Trump tests GOP loyalty with election tweet and stimulus strategy MORE (R-Texas) in a deep-red state.

Other interesting tidbits from Senate filings: candidates with deep pockets are still willing to bankroll their campaigns in the final stretch. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) wrote himself another $12 million check, bringing his total self-funding this cycle to over $50 million. And in New Jersey, Republican Bob Hugin loaned himself another $3.5 million.


In the House, Democrats keep raking it in and outraising their Republican opponents.

Of the 107 races listed on Cook Political Report, Democrats outpaced Republican challengers in 97 of those House battlegrounds, according to an analysis by NBC News. And in 70 races, the Democrat ended Oct. 17 with more cash on hand. All in all, the fundraising enthusiasm isn't ebbing for House Democrats, as they enter the final 11 days of the 2018 midterms.


At the ballot box

In Texas, it's the last election year that voters can select a straight-party ticket, which allows them to select all members of a single party at once. But there's reports from Texas voters that some polling machines are erroneously changing that selection on the ballot to include a candidate from the opposite party or leaving a blank on the section for the U.S. Senate election. The problem, which was reported by local news affiliate ABC 13, exists for voters in both party


In Georgia, state Democratic officials are claiming that more than 4,700 applications to vote by mail are missing in DeKalb County. The New York Times reported that county officials acknowledged the missing applications and will inform applicants about the error. But Sam Tillman, the chairman of the DeKalb County elections board, said there isn't evidence that any ballot request forms are missing or lost. Tillman told The Hill that the board "is in receipt of a list, provided by the Democratic Party of Georgia, of approximately 4,700 registered voters that the party claims requested absentee ballot forms via a mailer sent out by the party." He added that the Elections Department processes requests within three days of receipt.


Senate showdown

There's a new toss-up alert coming out of deep-blue New Jersey. The Cook Political Report shifted Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE's (D-N.J.) reelection race from lean Democratic to toss-up on Friday. It's become a much tighter-than-expected contest that's taking away critical attention and money from protecting incumbents in battleground states where Trump fared much more favorably. Menendez faces Republican Bob Hugin, a former chairman for Trump's state campaign and a pharmaceutical company CEO. Jennifer Duffy, a Senate analyst with Cook, said the closeness of the race is because of Menendez's past ethics woes.


Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties MORE (D-Mo.) and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) both denounced the bombs mailed to several prominent Democrats around the country this week and called for reducing the heated political rhetoric. But the tone quickly changed when they blamed each other for the hyper-polarization. The Hill's Reid Wilson breaks down Thursday's vicious debate from Kansas City, Mo.


Meanwhile in Texas, O'Rourke's chances of pulling off a stunning upset over Cruz likely hinge on Latino voters, The Hill's Lisa Hagen reports from San Antonio. Two things need to happen: O'Rourke needs to win a larger share of Latino voters--at least two thirds. A recent poll found him shy of that at 61 percent. Plus, Democrats will need a surge in Latino turnout to chip away at Republicans' longtime advantage in the state. There are some promising signs. Democrats say O'Rourke has made a concerted effort to reach out to these low propensity voters. And early vote numbers in the first week look encouraging. But many are skeptical they can turn things around by November, and call for long-term investment in Latino outreach. Plus, some Texas Hispanics, who are more religious, have a history of backing Republicans.


Survey says…

With 11 days to go, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Maris poll finds Democrats leading Republicans by double-digits on a generic congressional ballot. Fifty percent say they'd vote for a Democratic House candidate in their district, compared to 40 percent who'd back the Republican. Five percent wouldn't vote for either party and 6 percent were undecided.


In Texas's Senate race, Cruz has a 6-point lead over O'Rourke, according to a new University of Texas–Texas Tribune poll released Friday. Cruz garners support from 51 percent of likely voters, compared to O'Rourke getting 45 percent.


Paper chase

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reserved more than $30 million in TV advertising for Democratic candidates in swing districts in the final two weeks, The Hill's Reid Wilson reports. Bloomberg, who's considered a 2020 White House hopeful, had pledged to spend $80 million to help Democrats take back the House--and Democrats are finally seeing that cash flow.


His PAC, Independence USA, has reserved more than $4.1 million of airtime against both GOP Reps. Steve Knight and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherDemocrat Harley Rouda advances in California House primary Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report Rohrabacher tells Yahoo he discussed pardon with Assange for proof Russia didn't hack DNC email MORE in California. The PAC will also spent nearly $3 million to boost Democrat Kim Schrier who's running against Republican Dino Rossi for an open seat outside of Seattle in a district carried by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Should Biden consider a veteran for vice president? Biden leads Trump by nearly 40 points in California: poll MORE in 2016. The group spent another $2.5 million in the Las Vegas media market, which has two swing seats. And another $1.9 million for Democrat Jennifer Wexton, who is polling comfortably ahead of Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (R-Va.).


What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Oct. 26: Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks WNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' MORE will campaign in Wisconsin for gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden: I'll have a running mate picked next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided GOP to unveil COVID-19 bill Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He'll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLongtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (I-Vt.) is holding 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 IssaHarris endorses Democrat in tight California House race Democrats go big on diversity with new House recruits GOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order 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 LeeDemocrats introduce bill to repeal funding ban on abortions abroad Democrats hope clash resonates with key bloc: Women OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court strikes down Trump administration's methane rollback | Energy regulators uphold compensation for rooftop solar energy producers | Democrats target Confederate monuments in spending bill MORE (D-Calif.) in Berkeley. Lee doesn't face a competitive reelection race. Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMichelle Obama supporters urge Biden to pick former first lady as running mate Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' Harris endorses Democrat in tight California House race MORE (D-Calif.) will stump with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), with a fundraiser in Sarasota on Saturday (and an event addressing churchgoers on Sunday in Miami). 

--Oct. 30: Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Biden offers well wishes to Lebanon after deadly explosion MORE will campaign in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, the Democrat running against GOP Rep. Rod Blum in Iowa's 1st District.


Trump rallies:

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

--Oct. 27 in Murphysboro, Ill.

--Oct. 31 in Fort Myers, Fla.



--Oct. 26: North Dakota Senate debate

--Oct. 30: Indiana Senate debate

--Nov. 1: West Virginia Senate debate

--Nov. 4: Georgia gubernatorial debate


Coming to a TV near you

In light of the hyper-partisanship this midterm, Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.) launched an ad saying that he "doesn't join the mess," according to Politico. The ad opens with a brawl at a restaurant as Donnelly, who at one point ducks to dodge a thrown flower pot. Donnelly talks about the violence and confrontation happening that's become "out of control." He then rattles off a list of issues where he aligns with both parties: supporting Trump's border and protecting health care.  


Race for the White House

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBiden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-N.Y.), who's considered a potential 2020 hopeful, said at a Thursday night debate that she would serve a full six-year term if elected in November.


The Democratic National Committee has already begun discussions of how to handle presidential primary debates in 2020, The Hill's Amie Parnes reports. The early discussions, which have been ongoing for several months and led by interim DNC CEO Mary Beth Cahill, include the number of debates and how early in the cycle they should start.


In case you missed it

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate GOP, House Democrats begin battle over trillion bill Melania Trump announces plans to renovate White House Rose Garden Trump tweets photo of himself wearing a mask MORE does not plan to hit the campaign trail in the final stretch of the midterms because of a busy schedule, her office told The Daily Mail on Thursday. Her absence from the trail comes as her husband is set to do a final blitz of rallies around the country.


In Wisconsin's close governor's race, Gov. Scott Walker (R) sent a letter to Democrat Tony Evers needling him over seven occurrences of plagiarism in budget requests submitted by Evers while leading the state's education department, according to The Associated Press. Evers has pushed back on the letter: "He's just trying to be the typical politician that's afraid to talk about his record on transportation, issues of education, health care," Evers said. "He'll do anything, and this is one of those anythings."