The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape

The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape
© Greg Nash

Welcome to The Hill's Campaign Report, your weekly rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We're Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley, here's what we're watching this week on the campaign trail. 




The battle for the Senate is taking shape, with new developments in a handful of key swing states that could determine the balance of power in the upper chamber in 2020…


THEN THERE WERE 23: Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hickenlooper beats back progressive challenge in Colorado primary MORE (D) has put an end to his presidential aspirations, announcing on Thursday that he was dropping out of the race to represent Democrats in 2020. But when one door closes, another one often opens, and that opening for Hickenlooper appears to be in Colorado's Senate race.

The ex-presidential candidate revealed this month that he was giving "serious thought" to a Senate run after being encouraged by a number of Democratic colleagues. 

"I've been a geologist, a small businessman, a mayor, a governor and a candidate for president of the United States. At each step, I've always looked forward with hope," Hickenlooper said. 

Hickenlooper, who is also the former mayor of Denver, is widely known throughout the state, and could prove to be a formidable opponent to Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post The Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks MORE (Colo.), who is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans running for reelection in 2020. 


While Hickenlooper would have to get through the state's Democratic primary first, recent polling suggests that he may not have too much trouble with that. A Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group poll conducted late last month showed Hickenlooper leading the primary pack at 61 percent. Meanwhile, his closest competitor trailed at 10 percent. 

Making inroads in the Senate was once seen as a tall order for Democrats, who have struggled to pass legislation approved by the Democratic-controlled lower chamber while in the minority in the upper chamber. But the party's officials and insiders are no doubt feeling more optimistic with Hickenlooper, a power player in Colorado politics, now considering jumping into the race. 

Read The Hill's Reid Wilson on the dynamics around Hickenlooper's potential Senate bid in Colorado.


NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Hickenlooper is not the only 2020 candidate who has been pushed by his fellow Democrats to run for Senate instead. 

Democrats have looked to the inroads former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeColorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset Clinton, Buttigieg among Democrats set to hold virtual events for Biden Redistricting: 'The next decade of our democracy is on the ballot' in November MORE made in the Texas Senate race last year against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE (R) as a sign that the Lone Star State is turning purple. They have also sought to recruit O'Rourke to challenge longtime GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE.

But O'Rourke refused to take the bait on Thursday, telling MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell he would not "in any scenario" run for a seat in the upper chamber. 

O'Rourke's comments will likely disappoint some Democrats who believe he would pose a formidable challenge to Cornyn, who faces a wide primary field. Read The Hill's Jonathan Easley on O'Rourke's campaign relaunch from El Paso.

Six Democrats have lined up to challenge Cornyn in the Lone Star State, most recently, progressive activist Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who launched her campaign this week. And that may not be it for the field -- an official close to Texas Democratic politics told me another candidate could jump in soon.

Democrats say they are happy with the diverse field, which they argue offers a sharp contrast with Cornyn. But Cruz's former chief of staff and communications adviser, David Polyansky, tells me the large Democratic primary is only good news for Republicans.

"They're going to have to spend so much time and energy headed through the early part of next year not focused on Sen. Cornyn, but focused on each other," Polyansky said. 

"By the time May rolls around, they're going to have a really short window to launch a statewide campaign that cleans up the carnage of not only a large but likely aggressive primary battle." 


ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE's 2016 campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiTrump World boils over as campaign hits skids The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump turns to immigration; primary day delays expected Sunday shows preview: Bolton delivers bombshell while US tackles COVID-19, police brutality MORE told Max Greenwood this week that he was "seriously considering" a 2020 Senate campaign to challenge Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE (D-N.H.). 

Lewandowski, who is originally from Massachusetts but owns a home in New Hampshire, has potential to appeal to Trump voters who supported the president in the 2016 Republican primary. 

Trump gave his stamp of approval to Lewandowski's potential bid, telling "New Hampshire Today" that Lewandowski would make a "fantastic senator." 

But Trump narrowly lost to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats try to turn now into November The Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump On The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm MORE in the state in 2016, and Shaheen is a relatively popular figure in New Hampshire. Shaheen, who served as the state's first female governor and senator, defeated John Sununu and Scott Brown, respectively, in 2008 and 2014, receiving roughly 51 percent of the vote. 

-- Julia Manchester



Trump sought to project confidence about the economy at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday night, even as some experts warn about the potential for another recession in the near future. The stock market faced its largest drop of the year on Wednesday and the president signaled concern, tabling planned tariffs on China until the end of the holiday season.


But the president accused those who have warned about a slowdown of being ignorant, claiming that they are trying to create panic. Over the course of the New Hampshire rally, the president touted job growth and took credit for the economic gains since he took office in what is certain to be a key theme of his reelection campaign.

Read The Hill's Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels on Trump's New Hampshire rally last night.



Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, won't run for president in 2020. She announced on Tuesday that she plans to expand efforts for her voting rights organization Fair Fight to combat voter suppression in 20 battleground states, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports. 

"We're going to win," she said. "We're going to win because there are only two things stopping us in 2020: making sure people have a reason to vote and that they have the right to vote."

Of course, there may still be an opening for Abrams in the 2020 presidential race. She's long been floated as a potential running mate for the eventual Democratic nominee, and she told The New York Times on Tuesday that she "would be honored" to be considered for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.



When Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mount Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' MORE (I-Vt.)  suggested this week that The Washington Post covered him negatively because he had spoken critically of its owner, Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosJeff Bezos's wealth hits record high 1B How competition will make the new space race flourish Just because Democrats are paranoid about the election doesn't mean there aren't problems MORE, it was only the latest example of a 2020 Democratic candidate expressing frustration with the media. Beto O'Rourke appeared exasperated last week after a reporter asked him what Trump could do about racism in the wake of the massing shooting in El Paso -- "Members of the press, what the f---?" Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro expressed similar criticism. So did Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Joe Biden must release the results of his cognitive tests — voters need to know GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (D-N.J.).

In a way, the stepped-up critiques of the press are a remarkable about-face. After all, Democrats have warned for years now that Trump's attacks on the media have undermined trust in an institution critical to democracy. But some Democrats are quick to note that the recent bout of criticism doesn't measure up to the president's "enemy of the people" rhetoric. Rather, they say it's partially due to frustration from certain candidates that their messages are not cutting through the noise of a 23-person field, The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports.


How strong is the front-runner? Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits 'radical left,' news media, China in Independence Day address Kaepernick on July Fourth: 'We reject your celebration of white supremacy' Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham MORE's allies are growing concerned by his gaffes, which could cut into his case that he's the best candidate to take on Trump, writes The Hill's Amie Parnes.


NEW PLANS THIS WEEK: The 2020 Democrats are fighting to claim Obama's mantle on health care (The Hill) … Harris has unveiled a plan to combat domestic terrorism (The Hill) … Sanders proposes leveraging aid for Israel (The Hill) … Buttigieg has an $80 billion plan to "unleash" rural America's potential (The Hill) … Castro releases plan to raise taxes on the rich, provide relief for low-income Americans (The Hill) … Booker releases plan to combat hate crimes, white supremacist violence (The Hill) … O'Rourke unveils plan to combat white nationalism and gun violence (The Hill).



Joel Mathis: Trump's moment of crisis is here.

David Ignatius: China is a winning issue for Democrats in 2020.

Liz Peek: Trump is winning with China.

Walter Shapiro: Can Warren bring ideas back into politics?

Krystal Ball: Forget conventional wisdom, Bernie Sanders is electable.

Paul Waldman: Is the permanent Democratic majority finally here?

Beto O'Rourke: America's moment of truth has arrived.

Madison Gesiotto: Democrats turn tragedy into politics.

Jorge Renaud: GOP's disregard for venomous Trump rhetoric is inexcusable.



GENERAL ELECTION: A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Trump losing head-to-head match-ups against four of the top Democratic presidential primary contenders.


NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.) is hot on Biden's heels, trailing him by only 1 point in the latest Economist/YouGov survey. The latest Morning Consult survey has a different view, showing Biden ahead of Sanders by 13 points. Meanwhile, the latest poll from The Hill/HarrisX finds that the top 5 contenders -- Biden, Warren, Sanders, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights Democrats debate Biden effort to expand map against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems, GOP dig in on police reform ahead of House vote MORE -- all lost between 1 point and 4 points, with Biden maintaining a big lead over the field.


SOUTH CAROLINA: Since June, Biden has faced attacks from his Democratic rivals, questions about his political record and criticism over campaign-trail gaffes. But his support in South Carolina remains strong. A Post and Courier/Change Research poll released this week shows the former veep registering 36 percent support among Democratic voters in the Palmetto State. He's followed by Warren at 17 percent, Sanders at 16 percent, Harris at 12 percent and Buttigieg at 5 percent.


POLL FALLOUT: Sanders campaign rejects idea it is losing ground (The Hill) … Candidates scramble to qualify for third debate as deadline nears (The Hill) … Steyer reaches donor threshold, still needs polls to qualify for September debate (The Hill) … Bullock says DNC rules allow billionaires to "buy their way onto the debate stage" (The Hill).



Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingColorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset Bottom line House GOP leaders condemn candidate who said black people should be 'proud' of Confederate statues MORE (R-Iowa) is in hot water once again, this time for questioning whether there would be "any population of the world left" if not for rape and incest. The remarks were made as an argument against abortion, but he was swiftly condemned from all sides, including by his Democratic challenger, J.D. Scholten, reports The Hill's Zack Budryk. King is seen as so toxic right now that even some Republicans are offering support for his challenger, write The Hill's Juliegrace Brufke and Cristina Marcos 



The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is reportedly expanding its 2020 target list, taking aim at six more districts won by President Trump in 2016, The Hill's Julia Manchester reports. The DCCC is also overhauling its hiring practices after an outcry over a lack of diversity at the top ranks, Politico reports.

Richard Rodriguez: The DCCC is out of step with Democratic values.


A former staffer for Andrew YangAndrew YangHillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology The Hill's Campaign Report: Progressives feel momentum after primary night Clinton, Buttigieg among Democrats set to hold virtual events for Biden MORE's presidential campaign announced he will challenge Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks MORE (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primary next year, making him the latest candidate to take on the House Judiciary Committee chairman, according to The Hill's Rachel Frazin.


Former Major League Baseball star Curt Schilling is thinking about running for Congress in Arizona and he's got a fan in Trump, writes The Hill's Brett Samuels.


Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), whose district covers Dayton, has pulled a new Democratic challenger after the mass shooting there. Desiree Tims, a local activist and former aide to Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio), will run for the Democratic nomination, The Hill's Aris Folley reports.


Gun control groups seeking to put pressure on vulnerable GOP senators will hold rallies across the country and launch a national ad campaign to urge lawmakers to support universal background checks and a "red flag" law, The Hill's Julia Manchester reports.



Tom SteyerTom SteyerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE became the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to meet the 130,000-donor benchmark needed to make the debate stage in September, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports. But it came at a hefty cost of nearly $10 million. Since announcing his campaign five weeks ago, the billionaire philanthropist and liberal activist has poured millions into digital ads, television spots and donor lists. Of course, he hasn't secured his spot in the debate just yet. He needs to register at least 2 percent in one more qualifying poll before the Aug. 28 cutoff if he hopes to make the stage in Houston.



will launch her new group Fair Fight 2020 in Atlanta on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Castro and Booker will attend the Black Church PAC's candidate lunch forum at the Young Leaders Conference in Atlanta, which begins at 12:15 p.m. on Friday and at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Warren will campaign in Aiken, S.C., at a town hall event at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday. She'll go to church at Reid Chapel AME on Sunday.

Buttigieg has four events in South Carolina on Saturday: a town hall in Beaufort, a roundtable in Hampton, a roundtable in Pineville and an interview with the College of Charleston. On Sunday, Buttigieg will attend church in Georgetown, followed by a town hall event in Hartsville.

O'Rourke will visit immigrant communities in Mississippi on Friday and then will address the Arkansas Democratic Party on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHouse Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 'The Senate could certainly use a pastor': Georgia Democrat seeks to seize 'moral moment' Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (D-Colo.) has six campaign events planned across New Hampshire this weekend.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats: A moment in history, use it wisely The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE (D-Minn.) will campaign in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, S.C., on Saturday.

Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson touts endorsements for progressive congressional candidates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Warren becomes latest 2020 rival to back Biden The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks to stretch lead in Tuesday contests MORE will hold a fundraising event on Friday night in Scotts Valley, Calif., followed by another event on Saturday in Santa Barbara.



Last week, we brought you a preview of what the candidates could expect for food at the Iowa State Fair. This week, we saw the candidates sample the favorite dishes. 

The website Eater reported that Mayor Pete Buttigieg ate a pork chop on a stick, a fried bacon ball BLT, fried Oreos, and a rootbeer float, among other delicacies, in the span of four hours -- oh, and he washed it down with chocolate milk. 

The internet also blessed us with these highly-relatable pictures of Buttigieg's experience.



But Buttigieg's fellow mayor, Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioReopening schools seen as vital step in pandemic recovery De Blasio says NYC public schools plan to reopen in September The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE of New York City, put up some competition in the food department, scarfing down 11 different Iowa State Fair foods and drinks in under eight hours, according to his campaign.



But it was Congressman Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus In the next COVID-19 bill, target innovation and entrepreneurship MORE (D-Ohio) who turned heads on Thursday after he told MSNBC that the best thing he had at the Iowa State Fair was the Busch Light draft beer. 

"I haven't had a Busch Light since college," Ryan said.

Neither have we, Congressman. 

See you next week, everyone! Cheers!