Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas

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.

 

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We’re 26 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 754 days until the 2020 elections.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Democrats are worried that domestic abuse allegations leveled at Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what ‘policing’ means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight Officer charged in Floyd’s death considered guilty plea before talks fell apart: report Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen MORE (D) could imperil their hold on the state’s attorney general office, a post the party has held for nearly half a century.

Ellison faces accusations of abuse and assault from a former girlfriend. He has denied the charges, and an independent investigation funded by the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party could not corroborate the woman’s claims.

But voters and Democratic activists here say the allegations are weighing on the party’s prospects — and, in some cases, their own thoughts about the liberal firebrand whose star seemed to be on the rise.

“Unfortunately, it’s hurting him and Republicans are using it to bring down other Democrats,” said Roberta Humphries, a retiree who volunteers for Democratic candidates.

Ken Martin, the chairman of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said the party does not see evidence in their own polling — which they are conducting weekly — that allegations against Ellison are dragging down candidates in other races.

But the DFL’s handouts, which typically highlight their entire slate of candidates, now omit down-ballot contenders like Ellison, a hint that the party wants to steer clear of the controversy.

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“It’s going to be a close race. It shouldn’t be a close race,” Martin said in an interview. “It’s a concern to me, it’s a concern to all of the Democrats who work in politics in this state.”

The best thing Democrats have going for them, strategists in both parties agree, is the Republican nominee, former state Rep. Doug Wardlow (R). Wardlow is running far to the right, and even Republican strategists say they wish they had fielded a stronger candidate.

 

But the GOP didn’t expect to be competing for an open seat, or against Ellison. Incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) threw state political circles into chaos when she decided at the last minute to run for governor, a race she lost in the Democratic primary. Ellison jumped in to replace her in the attorney general contest, and only then did the allegations come out.

Polls show the race as close to tied as possible. Democrats hope they can make the race a binary choice, in a blue state in a blue year. But that may not be easy when their candidate faces such allegations.

The allegations “really disappointed me because I liked” Ellison, said Liz Fleming, a retiree in Bloomington who does not count herself as a Democrat or a Republican. “That will affect how I vote.”

–Reid Wilson

 

Senate showdown

After the debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP senators urge Trump to back off Murkowski threat Judd Gregg: A government in free fall The 7 most anticipated Supreme Court decisions MORE, Republicans are feeling increasingly optimistic about expanding their 51-49 seat Senate majority. The GOP has become even more bullish about their prospects of unseating 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.) and thinks things are moving in the right direction in the race for Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE‘s (D-Mo.) seat. The Hill’s Max Greenwood breaks down the rest of the Senate map and the recent slate of polling that’s been good news for Republicans.

 

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Five things to know about Trump’s legal power under the Insurrection Act MORE (R-Tenn.) and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) battled it out during the final Senate debate in Tennessee’s marquee Senate race. The two clashed on everything from Kavanaugh, to the border wall, to health care reform. Bredesen called for an end to hyper-partisanship in politics, while Blackburn hammered him on his support for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE in the 2016 presidential election. Read more about the five takeaways from Wednesday night’s debate from The Hill’s Lisa Hagen and Max Greenwood.

 

During a rally in Pennsylvania, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE urged Republicans to mobilize in the upcoming midterm election. While Trump was criticizing Democrats and boosting his administration’s economic policies, Hurricane Michael reached the coast of Florida. The Hill’s Niall Stanage gives a full rundown of the rally with on-the-ground details from Erie, Pa.

 

Survey says…

Good news for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R-Texas). The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Texas’ high-profile Senate race shows the incumbent Republican leadling Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE (D-Texas) by 9 points, signaling that Democrats’ already-narrow path to a Senate majority may be getting narrower.

 

Minnesota looks likely to stay blue, according to new polling from NBC News/Marist. Democratic Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithGun control group rolls out first round of Senate endorsements Pelosi: George Floyd death is ‘a crime’ Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE have substantial leads in their respective Senate races, with polls showing a double-digit advantage over their Republican opponents.

 

Democrat Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayPoll: Biden, Trump neck and neck in Ohio On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials ‘looking at’ offering coronavirus bonds Ex-CFPB director urges agency to ‘act immediately’ to help consumers during pandemic MORE has gained a 6-point lead over Republican Mike DeWine in the Ohio gubernatorial race, according to a Suffolk University/Cincinnati Enquirer poll out Wednesday. Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests | Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition tech | FBI warns hackers are targeting mobile banking apps Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (D-Ohio) is up 18 points over his Republican opponent, Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciOhio is suddenly a 2020 battleground Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Medicare for All won’t deliver what Democrats promise MORE (Ohio), according to the same poll. These Democratic leads show a potential shift in a state that voted for President Trump in 2016.

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Paper chase

Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic state senator challenging 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.), raised $2.6 million between July and September, her campaign announced Thursday. The massive fundraising haul is more than triple what Wexton raised in the second quarter. Her campaign said the average donation was $54. Comstock has yet to announce her Q3 haul.

 

The National Democratic Training Committee, a group that trains and spends on Democratic candidates, reported raising nearly $1.4 million in the third quarter. It’s a big uptick from its fundraising in the previous quarter, with over 126,000 donations from all 50 states.

 

What we’re watching for

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Campaign trail:

–Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE will hold a rally with Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.) in Hammond, Ind. on Oct. 12.

Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump Jr. calls elderly supporter who was assaulted Trump Jr. hits Howard Stern for going ‘establishment,’ ‘acting like Hillary’ Trump Jr., GOP senator lash out at Facebook for taking down protest pages on stay-at-home orders MORE and Kid Rock will attend a rally in support of Michigan Senate candidate John James (R) on Oct. 17.

 

Senate Debate schedule:

–Friday night debate in Wisconsin

–Sunday night debates in Ohio and Michigan

 

Trump rally schedule:

–Friday rally in Lebanon, Ohio at 7 p.m. ET

–Saturday rally in Richmond, Ky. at 7 p.m. ET

 

Coming to a TV near you

Republican Josh Hawley is hitting Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in a new ad featuring a clip of the two-term Democrat saying that she could “give up a few votes in the Bootheel” – the southeastern tip of Missouri – if she can win support in St. Louis County. “Claire McCaskill has given up on you,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot.

 

Republicans are turning up the heat in Indiana, with new ads taking aim at Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). A new ad from Republican Mike Braun‘s campaign hits Donnelly on a host of issues including his vote against confirming Kavanaugh and support for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Meanwhile, top GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) is out with a new ad that continues to hammer Donnelly over outsourcing, specifically highlighting his family’s business that operates a factory in Mexico. Donnelly sold his stock in the company last year after an AP report about the family business using Mexican labor.

 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched new TV and digital ads on Thursday touting tax reform in Arizona and Tennessee, which are home to open-seat Senate races where Republicans are playing defense. The ads highlight Blackburn and Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE‘s  (R-Ariz.) votes in favor of the GOP tax law that was passed last year.

 

Wave watch

Outside groups are spending big in the race for North Carolina’s 9th District, McClatchy DC reports. The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.), is the latest group to drop money in the district, spending $1 million on television ads boosting Republican Mark Harris. In all, outside groups have spent more than $2.4 million in North Carolina this cycle.

 

Democrats have a major edge when it comes to support among female voters, but they have struggled to lock down another key voting bloc: Latinos. While midterm voter turnout among Hispanics has historically been lower than other demographic groups, many on the left have been hoping that President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and heated rhetoric will lead to a surge of energized Latinos at the polls in favor of Democrats on Election Day. But with less than four weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, there are signs that Democrats have room for improvement with Hispanic voters. The Hill’s Melanie Zanona has the story.

 

Race for the White House

As Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) continues to consider mounting at 2020 bid, he’s increasingly focusing on California, which moved up its primary to March 2020, Politico reports. Sanders is planning a campaign appearance in late October in Oakland, but the specific area doesn’t have a competitive House race.

 

He’s not alone in making trips to California as a potential White House hopeful. Biden recently traveled to Orange County to boost Democratic candidates in top House races. And Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D) will likely travel back to her home state in the final stretch of the midterms.

 

Election Countdown was written by Rachel Cohen, Max Greenwood, Lisa Hagen and Reid Wilson.

 

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