Biden seeks streamlined messaging for Democrats amid midterm countdown: The Note

His party has focused on abortion, extremism and, sometimes, splitting with him.

October 20, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There's the campaign Republicans are running on inflation, crime and the Biden agenda -- a sprawling and broad case against Democratic governance that's being adjusted to fit particular circumstances in races across the map.

Then there's the campaign Democrats are running -- on abortion rights and against far-right Republicans, but also at times against the Biden White House on the southern border and the handling of inflation and the urgency under which all that and more is being addressed.

Enter, again, President Joe Biden. He makes a rare-for-this-cycle trip to battleground Pennsylvania on Thursday to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman -- and also to provide messaging cover for the many Democrats he isn't campaigning for in person, either because of their choice or the constraints of time.

The streamlined messaging includes stronger commitments on abortion, including Biden's vow this week that, in January, he will sign a bill to codify Roe v. Wade -- contingent on holding the House and picking up at least two seats in the Senate.

Wednesday at the White House, it was double-barreled messaging: touting the impact of the infrastructure investments that Democrats got through a divided Congress and the steps Biden hopes will ease gas prices, with further releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"It's not politically motivated at all," the president said when asked about the timing of the move, coming less than three weeks before the midterms.

To the extent that the move was outlined months ago -- and that, as one Cabinet member said on ABC, "good policy is good politics" -- that might be true. But Democrats are still heading into the final stretch looking for cohesive messaging on some of the biggest challenges voters are outlining on the trail.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Oct. 19, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Oct. 19, 2022.
Susan Walsh/AP

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

With less than three weeks before Election Day, Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is using a new ad to highlight his past work with Republican firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz.

"Some things work surprisingly well together," the ad begins before going on to compare odd couples. "Pizza with pineapple. French fry and frosty. Raphael Warnock and Ted Cruz."

The video refers to work the pair did on a provision in the bipartisan infrastructure law that will fund the extension of an interstate highway between Georgia and Texas, Warnock and Cruz's respective states. It's a story Warnock often tells on the campaign trail -- a demonstration, he says, of his willingness to work across the aisle.

"I'll work with anyone if it means helping Georgia," he says toward the end of the new ad.

In the current polarized political climate, and given that Warnock is running in a swing state that narrowly elected him last year, bipartisanship might or might not quite be the selling point it once was. It could, however, be an opportunity to appeal to GOP voters unsatisfied by rival Herschel Walker's performance on the campaign trail.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Warnock leads Walker 52-45%.

PHOTO: Raphael Warnock and Ted Cruz are pictured in composited images.
Raphael Warnock and Ted Cruz are pictured in composited images.
Getty Images

The TIP with Brittany Shepherd

At a time when Republicans seem sheepish to embrace their party's wins on abortion, former Vice President Mike Pence has been at the front of the line to tout the summer Supreme Court rollback of Roe as a major victory. As one of, if not the, loudest voices ballyhooing Roe's place atop "the ash heap of history," he may be making as much of a rallying cry for a future White House bid as he is trying to stump for conservatives on the ballot in November.

On Wednesday night at Georgetown University, when asked by a student if he would vote for Donald Trump if Trump were the Republican nominee in 2024, Pence paused -- then joked: "There might be somebody else I'd prefer more."

He also, once again, declined to rule out a future presidential campaign of his own.

"When I tell you as I have every confidence that the Republican Party is going to sort out leadership, all my focus has been on the midterm elections and it'll stay that way for the next 20 days. But after that, we'll be thinking about the future -- ours and the nation's -- and I'll keep you posted," he said.

His comments came in conversation with Mo Elleithee, a Democratic National Committee official and executive director of Georgetown's Institute of Politics and Public Service.

In his prepared remarks, Pence only mentioned the upcoming elections once, predicting GOP flips in Congress and beyond.

"Frankly, I'm very optimistic that in 20 days, we'll soon have new majorities in the House and Senate and in statehouses around America that will stand for freedom without a problem," he said.

PHOTO: Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Oct. 19, 2022.
Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Oct. 19, 2022.
Leah Millis/Reuters

Power Trip

"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with a look at gas prices and President Biden's decision to release more oil from the government's reserves. ABC's Elizabeth Schulze leads us off. Then ABC's Matt Gutman reports from Florida on the recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian and concerns over flesh-eating bacteria. Plus, ABC's Zohreen Shah discusses the rape trial of actor Danny Masterson and his role with the Church of Scientology.


  • President Biden travels to Pittsburgh to speak on "rebuilding our nation's infrastructure," then he will campaign with Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman in Philadelphia.
  • Oprah virtually campaigns for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Georgia.
  • Early in-person voting begins in North Carolina.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Friday for the latest.

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