December 16, 2019, 12:37

The Note: How tough will Democrats be on Biden?

The Note: How tough will Democrats be on Biden?

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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What’s the biggest threat to Joe Biden’s candidacy: the polls, his rivals or himself?

That proposition was put to the test in a week bookended for Biden by an outlier poll, some key debate news and an all-too-familiar kind of story.

A Washington Post story demonstrates how the former vice president seemed to conflate several events in telling heart-wrenching stories of heroism and gets at some of his candidacy’s potential weaknesses. It also gets at some of his greatest strengths — as a storyteller and as a listener.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College, Aug. 29, 2019, in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Nothing in what Biden said matches up on a scale of the false or misleading statements uttered with regularity by President Donald Trump.

And Biden’s main rivals — all of whom will face him head-to-head in two weeks at the Democratic debate on ABC — do not seem poised to use any of it as a direct argument against him.

But it doesn’t have to be used by rivals or be equivalent to Trump to bother Democratic primary voters. That’s a standard voters will set for their own party, which continues to have a polling front-runner who is exhibiting both strengths and flaws.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Not only will Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren be on the same debate stage for the first time, they’ll be standing right next to each other.

ABC News revealed the planned podium positioning Thursday for the third Democratic primary debate, a one-night affair on Sept 12. Based on recent polling, Biden and Warren will be in the center, flanked by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters, FILE

Crews prepare the stage for the second Democratic 2020 presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2019.

Warren’s polling has tracked upward considerably. The question now: If she’s front and center with Biden, could she also be subject to more direct or personal attacks from the wings?

The two Texans, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, will be shoulder to shoulder, potentially teeing up another tangle.

And Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur who’s new to politics, will be Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s mirror in the same position, but on the opposite side of the stage. The two men performed the best on past debate nights when they talked about being outsiders to Washington.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

The Democrats vying to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may get a new challenger: Kentucky Sports Radio host and former attorney Matt Jones, who announced on Thursday that he’s launching an exploratory committee. He said he won’t announce his decision until he’s talked to voters across the state and after Kentucky’s gubernatorial election in November.

“I think in order to win a race against Mitch McConnell, you have to run as an outsider because he is the consummate political insider,” Jones told ABC News.

Timothy D. Easley/AP, FILE

Matt Jones, right, host of Kentucky Sports Radio talks with his broadcasting partner Ryan Lemond during his radio show in Fancy Farm, Ky., July 31, 2015.

“Donald Trump will get 58% to 62% of the vote in Kentucky,” said Jones, who will be on a book tour in Kentucky over the next two months. “In order to win, you’re going to have to find 8% to 12% of the voters who will vote Trump/you. And the only way to do that is by being an outsider … and that’s what I’ve been my whole life.”

He called retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath the “establishment candidate” in the primary. McGrath raised $2.5 million in the 24 hours after launching her campaign and quickly got shout-outs from national politicians, including presidential candidates Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar. McGrath’s campaign had no comment about Jones’ potential challenge, and McConnell’s campaign manager, Kevin Golden, told ABC News, “Let us know when he’s explored his way out of the primary.”


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast Friday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, who explains why former FBI Director James Comey will not be prosecuted for his secret memos, despite breaking FBI rules. Then ABC News’ Molly Nagle tells us why former Vice President Joe Biden is in some hot water over a story he’s been telling on the campaign trail.


  • On Friday, President Donald Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before traveling to Camp David.
  • Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., campaigns in Iowa all weekend.
  • Marianne Williamson campaigns in South Carolina on Friday. She continues campaigning in Georgia on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, campaigns in Virginia on Friday and Saturday and is in Pennsylvania on Monday.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigns in South Carolina on Friday. He continues campaigning on Sunday in New Hampshire and Maine. He returns to New Hampshire Monday afternoon to campaign.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa on Sunday and Monday.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., campaigns in Iowa on Sunday and Monday. He continues campaigning in Illinois on Monday afternoon.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, campaigns in Iowa all weekend. She continues campaigning in Illinois on Monday afternoon.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., campaigns in Nevada on Monday.
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Iowa on Monday.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., campaigns in Massachusetts on Monday .
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock campaigns in Iowa all weekend and into Monday.
  • Sunday on “This Week”: The Powerhouse Roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, Washington Post National Correspondent Mary Jordan and NPR Political Correspondent Asma Khalid.


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