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 KingTrump, Biden deadlocked in Iowa: poll GOP leader: 'There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party' Loomer win creates bigger problem for House GOP 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 StiversGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Business groups back pandemic insurance bill modeled on post-9/11 law National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus 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 DonnellyTrump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Trump plans to pick Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg on court Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle 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 PelosiPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Will Democrats attempt to pack the Supreme Court again? 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 TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act 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 CramerNetflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project Abortion stirs GOP tensions in Supreme Court fight Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day MORE (R-N.D.) holds a nine-point lead over Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle Centrists, progressives rally around Harris pick for VP 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents 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 McSallySenate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (R-Ariz.), both hoping to replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow fast population growth made Arizona a swing state Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden 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) ManchinTrump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink 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 BlackburnNetflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-Tenn.) is leading former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen by 8 points in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerHas Congress captured Russia policy? Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump 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 RodgersHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing More than 100 lawmakers urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues 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 NelsonDemocrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson 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 says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins MORE will be in Fargo, N.D. for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D). And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act What Kamala Harris' VP nomination means to us Harris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' MORE (D-Calif.) will stump for Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Senators introduce bipartisan bill to help women, minorities get STEM jobs MORE (D-Nev.), in Reno, Nev., at 10:15 p.m. ET.

--Nov. 2: Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election In a season of bad ideas, one stands out 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 HolderThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's rally risk | Biden ramps up legal team | Biden hits Trump over climate policy 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 SandersTrump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Sanders tells Maher 'there will be a number of plans' to remove Trump if he loses Sirota reacts to report of harassment, doxing by Harris supporters 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 DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan On The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Florida to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars 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.