Biden and Trump both face tests in next stretch of primaries: The Note

May 16, 2022, 6:20 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

A new phase of primary season starts this week -- and it won't just be former President Donald Trump whose sway is tested as voting expands into battlegrounds that are likely to make or break a majority.

Amid all the attention on vicious Republican primaries and Trump's impact, Democrats are set to make some of their own major decisions. That includes a few choice races where President Joe Biden has chosen to step in, and some others where his brand of politics comes into play.

The Senate race in Pennsylvania is a neat encapsulation of the potential directions Democrats could take. The news Sunday that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the leading candidate in recent polls, was hospitalized with a stroke puts more attention on the burly, progressive former small-town mayor who has campaigned extensively against the idea of "Joe Manchin Democrats."

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet  in Lemont Furnace, PA., May 10, 2022.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet in Lemont Furnace, PA., May 10, 2022.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Fetterman is opposed by a young, gay Black state lawmaker, and a House member and Marine Corps veteran whom Biden himself has compared to his late son, Beau. Trump, of course, has roiled the Republican side of that race with his endorsement of Dr. Mehmet Oz, which may have opened the door for a surprise newcomer, Kathy Barnette.

Also on the ballot Tuesday is an open House seat in a Democratic part of North Carolina that's attracted a Muslim woman who is backed by prominent progressives, a Black state lawmaker who is backed by establishment figures, and also Clay Aiken, of "American Idol" fame, who is making his second run at a seat in Congress.

And in Oregon, Biden endorsed incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., against a progressive challenger despite Schrader's opposition to a higher minimum wage and his role in sinking a big chunk of the Build Back Better plan. That move puzzled and outraged some local and national progressives.

If polling and expectations hold, Democrats could send some mixed messaging, supporting progressive candidates in some races and those closer to Biden and other establishment figures in others. The Republican side could see even more turmoil -- with Trump only one reason why.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As mourners grieve the victims shot dead during a racially motivated killing spree in a Buffalo grocery store, many wonder if any action will be taken in Washington to prevent future massacres.

The suspect, an 18-year-old white man, is believed to have written a 180-page hate-filled screed fixated on the notion of "replacement theory," a white supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates. Authorities also say the shooter live-streamed the killings online. All 10 who were killed were Black.

PHOTO: A police officer lifts the tape cordoning off the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, NY, May 15, 2022.
A police officer lifts the tape cordoning off the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, NY, May 15, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP

President Joe Biden addressed the mass shooting in remarks at the U.S. Capitol Sunday, referring to the suspect as a "hate-filled soul," and noting the Department of Justice was still gathering the facts. He didn't lay out any concrete next steps.

In what has become a common refrain after mass shootings, some have called for gun reform -- reform unlikely to pass the Senate with Republicans staunchly opposed. Others, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pointed to social media companies and called for vigilance in identifying those who with a propensity for violence while balancing those concerns with free speech considerations.

"Freedom is so important to us but that freedom also carries public safety with it and we have to balance that," Pelosi told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

There will be many in Buffalo and far outside the upstate New York city urging for some sort of change in response to the horrific shooting. But even some prominent civil rights leaders don't expect anything to materialize.

"Only in America can a white supremacist buy a gun, kill 10 people in a racially motivated massacre, get arrested peacefully . . . all with absolutely no action from Congress to prevent the next act of domestic terrorism," tweeted NAACP President Derrick Johnson.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The last sprint toward Pennsylvania's primary elections on Tuesday has candidates looking to November, but some Republican candidates' platforms look back on the 2020 election as they continue to push false claims of fraud.

Just three days before election night, former President Donald Trump issued a gubernatorial endorsement for state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally preceding the insurrection at the Capitol. Mastriano denies entering the Capitol, but Trump noted Mastriano's participation in refusing to recognize President Joe Biden's legitimate win in 2020, saying he "has been with me right from the beginning, and now I have an obligation to be with him."

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a campaign rally in Warminster, Pa., May 14, 2022.
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a campaign rally in Warminster, Pa., May 14, 2022.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Although Trump went on to say the state senator would make an "unbeatable team" when paired with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is his pick in the Senate race, Mastriano has been backing another breakthrough Republican on the campaign trail -- Kathy Barnette.

Like Mastriano, Barnette also participated in denying the outcome of the last general election. In a January 2020 video titled "Happy New Year...Don't grow weary. FIGHT!", Barnette announced she would help organize busses to Washington, DC.

Barnette, Oz, and Dave McCormick are locked in a three-way contest within a few points of one another while in the margin of error, according to recent polling by Fox News. The matchup is happening while 18% of Pennsylvania Republican primary voters say they are undecided about who they will back.


ABC News' "Midterm Monitor," airing on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," has launched to follow developments in the 2022 midterm elections. Ahead of Tuesday's primaries, watch ABC News political director Rick Klein break down the midterm map on "This Week."

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

16. That's the number of key races we've identified in Tuesday night's primaries on the GOP side. There's a competitive Senate primary and a number of close House races in North Carolina; a Senate and gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania alongside some House races there, as well; a governor's, attorney general's, secretary of state's and close House race to watch in Idaho; and finally, some House races and the gubernatorial primary to watch in Oregon. Read more from FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich on the key GOP races to watch on Tuesday and be sure to follow along at FiveThirtyEight's live blog.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Monday morning with the latest on the deadly supermarket shooting in Buffalo from ABC's Aaron Katersky. Then, ABC's Trish Turner explains how Congress is addressing the nationwide baby formula shortage. And, ABC's Deirdre Bolton breaks down what's behind this week's crypto crash.


  • President Joe Biden awards Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor at 11:45 a.m. Later in the day, Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the Hellenic Republic. Following that, Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a reception in honor of Mitsotakis and Mrs. Mitsotaki at 5 p.m.
  • In-person early voting in primary runoff elections in Texas begins on Monday and runs through Friday.
  • Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at 2:30 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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

    Related Topics