Election Countdown: Bomb threats raise new fears about political violence | Texas race becomes ground zero in health care fight | Florida tests Trump's influence | Racial animus moves to forefront in midterm battle | Trump to rally in Wisconsin tonight

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 13 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 741 days until the 2020 elections.


Explosive devices targeting Democratic politicians and newsrooms have underscored a recurring theme in the 2018 midterms: political polarization is at an all-time high.

Less than two weeks before the election, the Secret Service found two “potential explosive devices” mailed to 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 at her New York home and former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE‘s Washington, D.C. residence. Meanwhile, CNN’s newsroom in the Time-Warner building in Manhattan was evacuated after reports of a suspicious package.


Suspicious packages were addressed to other Democrats including Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMcCarthy yanks endorsement of California candidate over social media posts Top bank regulator announces abrupt resignation GOP pulls support from California House candidate over ‘unacceptable’ social media posts MORE (Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Obama to speak about George Floyd in virtual town hall GOP group launches redistricting site MORE, as well as billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros. The Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzVA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries VA secretary stops short of agreeing to remove Nazi headstones MORE (D) was also evacuated because a package sent to Holder used her return address.

The White House and Republican leaders condemned the threats and called for an end to political violence. Speaking at a White House event, Trump, who has previously criticized all of the people targeted this week, denounced the threats “abhorrent” and “egregious” and called for unity.

Democratic leaders, though, slammed Trump’s words as “hollow.” “Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi: Georgia primary ‘disgrace’ could preview an election debacle in November MORE (Calif.) said in a joint statement.


Some worry calls for unity may be too late. The attempted bomb attacks come in the final stretch of a midterm year mired by heated rhetoric and finger-pointing by both parties at their opponents.

Democrats largely blame Trump for the polarization in politics and rhetoric that stems from his attacks against political opponents. Meanwhile, Republicans — and Trump himself — have cautioned voters ahead of the midterms about a liberal “mob,” specifically citing the protests that emerged after the contentious Supreme Court confirmation of 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.

It’s unclear what effect the bomb threats will have on the midterms. But it’s unlikely to change the attitudes of the GOP or Democratic bases, who appear more motivated than ever to mobilize for their party’s candidates.


Read more from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant about those threats raising new fears.



Wave watch

The race for Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTexas kicks off critical battle for House control The Hill’s review of John Solomon’s columns on Ukraine Tenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden MORE‘s (R-Texas) suburban swing district has become ground zero for the battle over health care and pre-existing conditions, The Hill’s Lisa Hagen reports from north Dallas. Sessions’s Democratic opponent Colin Allred has sharpened his attacks on pre-existing conditions and the GOP congressman’s numerous votes to repeal ObamaCare. It’s a strategy being employed across other swing districts and states as Democrats fight for the House majority. For his part, Sessions is highlighting a non-binding resolution he proposed last month that would give access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions.

In an interview with The Hill, Allred called that resolution a “political stunt,” arguing that voters will see it that way. Meanwhile, Sessions lashed out at Allred and Democrats’ for their “shameless attacks” regarding pre-existing conditions. The GOP congressman went further by arguing that Democrats will hurt economic progress by implementing “Medicare for All.”


Race has moved to the forefront in a number of campaigns in this year’s midterm elections that rivals that of past cycles, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports. There’ve been more blatant overtures of racial animus and strategists on both sides of the aisle link that to Trump. One example in California: GOP Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterLobbying world Duncan Hunter granted delayed start to prison sentence over coronavirus New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE accused his Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is of Mexican and Palestinian descent, of “working to infiltrate” Congress. And in Florida’s governor race, Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGOP tentatively decides on Jacksonville for site of convention DeSantis pushing to host Republican National Convention in Florida Florida bars and theaters to reopen starting Friday, DeSantis says MORE said after the August primaries that Democrat Andrew Gillum, who’s black, would “monkey” up the state’s economy.



Senate showdown

Trump’s political influence is being tested in Florida, a perennial swing state that narrowly went for the president in 2016. Key races in the Sunshine State will serve as an early referendum on the president’s standing, specifically in the nationally watched Senate and governor’s races. The Hill’s Max Greenwood dives into Florida’s political landscape from Orlando.


Trump claimed Wednesday in a tweet that GOP candidates would “totally protect people with pre-existing conditions,” trying to provide some cover for Republicans who voted to repeal ObamaCare. Republicans have been trying to show that they support protections for those with pre-existing conditions as they weather repeated attacks from Democrats on ObamaCare repeal. It’s become a prominent issue in this cycle’s top Senate races, where Republicans are looking to protect their slim 51-49 majority.



Survey says…

SHOCK POLL out of South Dakota: Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSouth Dakota will not enforce social distancing at Mount Rushmore Fourth of July event South Dakota governor says she’s working with Trump officials on Mount Rushmore flyover South Dakota governor asks Trump to intervene in checkpoint dispute with Native American tribes MORE (R-S.D.) and Democratic challenger Billie Sutton are tied just two weeks before the state’s gubernatorial election, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll commissioned by the Argus Leader and KELO TV. Both candidates each won support from 45 percent of likely voters, with 9 percent still undecided.


Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.) continues to widen his lead against Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D-Nev.) in the only Senate race where a GOP senator is running for reelection in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Heller leads Rosen by 6 points, 47 to 41 percent, in a new Ipsos poll on Wednesday.


An Ipsos poll released Wednesday gives 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) a 5-point lead over 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). This result comes even as 52 percent of Texans say they are motivated to support a candidate who would oppose Trump. Trump threw his support behind Cruz at a rally with this week, calling him “beautiful Cruz” in a change of tone.


Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Fla.) leads Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 4 points, according to a new Gravis Marketing poll. Six percent of likely voters remain undecided about their choice.


Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGOP’s Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst Government watchdog: ‘No evidence’ Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE (D-N.J.) holds a 5-point lead over GOP challenger Bob Hugin in New Jersey’s Senate race, a Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics poll released Wednesday finds. Menendez, who was embroiled in a corruption case, has been seeing low enthusiasm. The trial ended in a hung jury and federal prosecutors later dropped the charges. Only 29 percent of Menendez supporters said they were “very enthusiastic” about voting for him.


A new Monmouth University poll gives Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherDemocrat Harley Rouda advances in California House primary Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report Rohrabacher tells Yahoo he discussed pardon with Assange for proof Russia didn’t hack DNC email MORE (D-Calif.) a 2-point lead over Democratic challenger Harley Rouda. This year’s election has proven to be the toughest for the 15-term congressman. In July, Rohrabacher trailed his opponent by two points. However, with increasing approval of Trump and immigration a top concern in California’s 48th district, the race seems to have slightly tipped in Rohrabacher’s favor.



Paper chase

The Republican National Committee announced it will spend an additional $25 million, for a total of $275 million, on the 2018 midterm elections. That new spending includes: $10 million on digital get-out-the-vote efforts, $3 million on a texting program, and $3.5 million transferred to both the Republicans’ House and Senate committees.


Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, launched a $2 million national TV ad buy linking Republicans to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE‘s (Ky.) recent comments where he said entitlements were driving the national debt.



What we’re watching for

Campaign trail:

–Oct. 26: Former President Obama will campaign in Wisconsin for gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE (D-Wis.) and other Democrats running down ballot. He’ll also hold a rally in Detroit. Meanwhile, 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.) will continue to hold rallies around the country, with his next stop in California. He’ll hold a rally with Democrat Mike Levin, who’s running for retiring GOP Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaGOP sues California over Newsom’s vote-by-mail order Conservative group files challenge to California vote-by-mail order New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE’s seat in California’s 49th district.

–Oct. 27: Sanders will then travel up north for another California rally with Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBlack lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol McCarthy says states have power on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi calls for removal of Confederate statues in Capitol complex MORE (D-Calif.) in Berkeley. Lee doesn’t face a competitive reelection race.

Trump rallies:

–Oct. 24 in Mosinee, Wis.

–Oct. 26 in Charlotte, N.C.

–Oct. 27 in Murphysboro, Ill.

Debates: (All ET)

–Oct. 24: Florida gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m.; New Jersey Senate debate at 8 p.m.

–Oct. 26: North Dakota Senate debate at 8 p.m.



Odds and ends

A debate on Tuesday between Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams (D), Brian Kemp (R) and Libertarian Ted Metz, was marked by hot-button issues, personal attacks and allegations of voter suppression. Read the five debate takeaways from The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel and Emily Birnbaum.


The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports breaks down the reason for Trump’s visit to a rural town in Wisconsin, pointing to Republicans’ concerns about turnout when it comes to Gov. Scott Walker‘s reelection race.


In an op-ed for The Hill, former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Biden faces new hurdle: Winning as front-runner The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination MORE (N.Y.), who previously served as chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, explored how Dems can counter fear that he believes has been stoked by Republicans, specifically pointing to rhetoric over the migrant caravan.

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