Election Countdown: 5 days to midterms | Steve King faces his toughest test | Oprah stumps for Abrams in Georgia | Trump stokes controversy with immigration ad | Dems keep focus on health care | Polls show West Virginia, Indiana Senate races tightening

Election Countdown: 5 days to midterms | Steve King faces his toughest test | Oprah stumps for Abrams in Georgia | Trump stokes controversy with immigration ad | Dems keep focus on health care | Polls show West Virginia, Indiana Senate races tightening
© Greg Nash

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 5 days from the 2018 midterm elections and 733 days from the 2020 elections.

 

It's been a bad week for Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingIowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats Ocasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center MORE (R-Iowa).

The eight-term congressman has long been a controversial figure, known for his anti-immigrant – and sometimes racially charged – rhetoric. But his apparent endorsement of a white nationalist candidate in Canada and recent revelations that meetings with representatives of the far-right Austria Freedom Party have put him in an increasingly precarious political position.

 

Republican leaders are facing new pressure to denounce King and public outrage over his comments could bring him loads of unwanted attention. Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversBill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public housing passes House The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Republicans offer support for Steve King challenger MORE (R-Ohio), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) rebuked the Iowa congressman this week, writing in a tweet that King's "recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate.

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"We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior," Stivers wrote.

 

King has won reelection with relative ease since he first entered Congress in 2003. But now, signs point to potential peril for King, who's facing a closer-than-expected challenge from Democrat J.D. Scholten. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, recently moved King's race from the "Likely Republican" column to the "Lean Republican" column. King also had a heated exchange with an attendee at a town hall on Thursday who asked whether he was a white nationalist and tried to link King's rhetoric to the shooting in Pittsburgh.

 

With just five days to go before Election Day, King is airing the first television ad of his reelection bid. Meanwhile, Scholten has seen a last-minute cash injection in recent days, according to a Politico report, raking in $641,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday alone. A survey conducted late last month by left-leaning polling firm Change Research also showed Scholten within striking distance of King.

 

Exactly how much danger King is in is unclear. Some political observers cast doubt on the notion that the Iowa congressman's ouster is imminent. In a string of tweets on Thursday, Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida who tracks elections, wrote that early voting numbers in Iowa's 4th District showed some improvement in Democratic turnout. But that increase, he noted, he not enough on its own to edge out King.

 

 

Senate showdown

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (D-Ind.) says he "misspoke" when he discussed the performance of two minority staffers during a debate this week. "Our state director is Indian American, but he does an amazing job," he said at the time. "Our director of all constituent services, she's African American, but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine." Those comments drew accusations that Donnelly was suggesting that the two employees were able to perform well in spite of their race and ethnicity.

"I misspoke," he said. "I meant to say 'and' instead of 'but.' That would have communicated what I have tried to do my entire life: that I make a habit to seek out and promote people of color for both my campaign and official staff."

 

 

Wave watch

Democrats aren't just hopeful that they can capture the 23 seats they need to win a majority in the House. They're confident. The optimism among Democrats has been fueled by favorable recent polls, outsize fundraising numbers and Trump's dwindling approval ratings, The Hill's Melanie Zanona and Mike Lillis report. In fact, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden blasts Trump, demands he release transcript of call with foreign leader Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week MORE (D-Calif.) declared this week that Democrats "will win" control of the chamber on Election Day.

 

Democrat Abigail Spanberger's campaign says that it was infiltrated by a woman believed to work for the conservative group Project Veritas, The Washington Post reports. The woman had pretended to be a Democratic volunteer and worked in the campaign's Richmond office for several weeks, Spanberger's campaign told the newspaper. Project Veritas is known for its undercover operations, which have targeted news outlets, Democrats and Planned Parenthood. Spanberger is challenging Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Virginia's 7th District.

 

Democrats are pinning their hopes on health care as a winning message in the final days of the midterm campaign, saying they will not be distracted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE's attempts to make the election about immigration, The Hill's Peter Sullivan reports.

 

 

Survey says…

Fox News polls released Wednesday show tightening Senate races in North Dakota and Arizona with less than one week before the election. Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerPrimary challenges show potential cracks in Trump's GOP Castro, Steyer join pledge opposing the Keystone XL pipeline EPA proposes rolling back states' authority over pipeline projects MORE (R-N.D.) holds a nine-point lead over Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) among likely voters. An earlier poll gave Cramer a 12-point lead over the incumbent. In Arizona, Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona Democrats push Sinema censure vote off until January Pence taps former DHS spokeswoman as his new press secretary Arizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema MORE (R-Ariz.), both hoping to replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  MORE (R-Ariz.), each have 46 percent of likely voters' support. The new poll makes the race slightly tighter than suggested by an earlier Oct. 3rd poll which gave Sinema a two-point lead.

 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures O'Rourke: Many Democrats 'complicit' in gun problem MORE's (D-W.Va.) polling lead is starting to tighten. A new MetroNews poll shows that Manchin maintains a 5-point lead over his GOP challenger, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Earlier this year, MetroNews reported an 8-point advantage for Manchin.

 

In Indiana, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) leads GOP challenger Mike Braun 48 to 46 percent among likely voters, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll. Seven percent of voters remain undecided. Donnelly's two-point lead, which is within the poll's margin of error, is narrower than the 6-point lead he held in September's NBC News/Marist poll.

 

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift 'obsessed' with politics, says she's cautious about celebrity support backfiring for Democrats The evolution of Taylor Swift's political activism Kellyanne Conway responds to Taylor Swift criticism by invoking pop star's lyrics MORE (R-Tenn.) is leading former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen by 8 points in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.), according to an Emerson College poll out Thursday. The poll shows 52 percent of likely voters backing Blackburn, compared to 44 percent who support Bredesen. Three percent of voters were undecided.

 

 

Paper chase

The Koch Network's Hispanic campaign arm, Libre Initiative Action, on Thursday announced a series of bilingual mail ads in support of the reelection campaign for Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersSocial determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Lawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress MORE (R-Wash.), a member of House GOP leadership. In a district that is 5.8 percent Hispanic, the postcard-sized mailers could tip the scales in McMorris Rodgers's favor on Election Day.

 

The Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) raked in more than $8 million in October, bringing the group's fundraising total for the cycle to $40 million. The group's previous record for October was set in 2014 with $3.1 million. It raised a total of $25 million that cycle.

 

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott pumped $12.5 million of his personal fortune into his Senate campaign in just nine days. That brings his total self-funding this cycle to more than $64 million, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Scott, a wealthy former health care executive, is vying to oust Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE (D-Fla.) in Florida's closely watched Senate race.

 

 

What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Nov. 1: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE will be in Fargo, N.D. for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D). And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick MSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) will stump for Senate candidate, 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 Reno, Nev., at 10:15 p.m. ET.

--Nov. 2: Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE will campaign for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Atlanta. He'll also be stumping for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who's running for Florida governor, in Miami.

 

Trump rallies (All times in ET):

--Nov. 1: Columbia, Mo. at 7:30 p.m.

--Nov. 2: Huntington, W. Va. at 4 p.m.; Indianapolis, Ind. at 7 p.m.

--Nov. 3: Belgrade, Mont. at 2:30 p.m.; Pensacola, Fla. at 7:30 p.m.

--Nov. 4: Macon, Ga. at 4 p.m.; Chattanooga, Tenn. at 7 p.m.

--Nov. 5: Cleveland, Ohio at 3 p.m.; Fort Wayne, Ind. at 6:30 p.m.; Cape Girardeau, Mo. at 10 p.m.

 

Debates:

--Nov. 1: West Virginia Senate debate

--CANCELLED: Nov. 4: Georgia gubernatorial debate

 

 

Coming to a TV near you

Trump released an ad on Twitter on Wednesday attacking Democrats on immigration. The ad features Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who received the death penalty in April for killing two cops. "Democrats let him into our country," bold white text reads in the video. The 50-second clip goes on to display a video of a large group of migrants and asks, "Who else would Democrats let in?"

 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE told CNN the ad shows Trump "at his worst." "The dog-whistle of all dog-whistles," Perez said, describing the ad to host Chris Cuomo. And retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken Trump critic, called it a "sickening ad," urging Republicans to denounce it. The Sacramento Bee also reported that Bracamontes was readmitted to the U.S. during President George W. Bush's tenure.

 

 

Race for the White House

The famously close-knit Obama World is split as former aides and staffers ponder who to throw their support behind in the coming 2020 election, The Hill's Amie Parnes reports. Among the possible names in the hat for the Democratic Party are former Vice President Joe Biden, 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 and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Former President Barack Obama has remained tight-lipped on who he will back, but his implicit support is expected to have important weight in the election.

 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (I-Vt.) called President Trump "the most racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted president in history" at a campaign event for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous (D) this week. Sanders' comments come with increased speculation that the progressive senator will launch a bid to oust Trump in 2020.

 

State watch

Oprah Winfrey stumped for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) on Thursday, making an impassioned call for women voters to turn up at the polls. Abrams and her opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) are neck-and-neck, with Abrams leading by one point. The talk show host told the crowd that their votes "cannot be suppressed" if they show up in big enough numbers, referencing accusations that Kemp has suppressed the votes of minorities in the state. While at the event, Winfrey denied reports she is planning a 2020 presidential bid.

 

Vice President Pence was in Georgia to campaign for Kemp. He told voters at a rally that Abrams had been "bankrolled by Hollywood liberals." "I'd like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell, I'm kind of a big deal, too," Pence added. " "And I've got a message for all of Stacey Abrams's liberal Hollywood friends: This ain't Hollywood... This is Georgia."

 

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Trump parts ways with key Florida adviser: report Death and destruction: A timeline of Hurricane Dorian MORE suggested his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, should be impeached for "corruption in action." DeSantis called Gillum's push to impeach Trump ironic given the revelation that Gillum accepted a ticket to the Broadway musical "Hamilton" in 2016 from an undercover FBI agent investigating suspected corruption in Tallahassee City Hall.

Gillum appeared on CNN this morning to defend himself against the accusations. "I've been an elected official for 15 years and I've been elected repeatedly by doing right, not by doing wrong," he said.

 

 

Ballot box

A federal district court judge on Thursday refused to temporarily exempt Native Americans in North Dakota from a state law requiring residents to show a valid ID that lists a current residential street address when voting, The Hill's Lydia Wheeler reports.

 

The Hill's Election Countdown was written by Lisa Hagen, Max Greenwood, Madeline Rundlett, Rachel Cohen and James Wellemeyer.