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 KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response 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 StiversHouse passes bill to allow VA to fund service dogs for veterans with PTSD Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans 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 Donnelly70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Ginsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 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 PelosiTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Stone judge under pressure over calls for new trial 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 TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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 CramerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Barr says he'll make surveillance reforms after damning watchdog report MORE (R-N.D.) holds a nine-point lead over Democratic 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 (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 McSallyLoeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman Overnight Health Care: Officials confirm 34 total coronavirus cases in US | ObamaCare favorability hits highest level in poll | McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign MORE (R-Ariz.), both hoping to replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign 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) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Republicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills 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 BlackburnHouse Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid TikTok introduces new parental controls Abortion wars flare up in Congress MORE (R-Tenn.) is leading former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen by 8 points in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight 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 RodgersCelebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban 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 NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line MORE (D-Fla.) in Florida's closely watched Senate race.

 

 

What we're watching for

Campaign trail:

--Nov. 1: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE will be in Fargo, N.D. for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D). And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. House passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Calif.) will stump for Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Bipartisan Senate resolution would urge UN to renew Iran arms embargo, travel restrictions Schumer reminds colleagues to respect decorum at State of the Union speech MORE (D-Nev.), in Reno, Nev., at 10:15 p.m. ET.

--Nov. 2: Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina 6 ways the primary fight is toughening up Democrats for the fall general election Bloomberg called Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme' as mayor 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 HolderIf Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies They forgot that under Trump, there are two sets of rules 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 SandersDNC warns campaigns about cybersecurity after attempted scam Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Biden looks to shore up lead in S.C. 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 DeSantisGov. DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday Florida lawmakers pass bill requiring parental consent for abortions, governor expected to sign 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.