The Note: Could 2016 Be The Hillary and Joe Show?


--FLASHBACK: When ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS interviewed Biden on "Good Morning America" in January, he said "there's a chance" that he would challenge Clinton, but added, "I don't think I have to make up my mind until the summer." In the interview he said he considered the presidential contest "wide open on both sides."

--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: The confluence of forces and events that have led Joe Biden to this point are deep and vast, from Democratic unease with Hillary Clinton's campaign performance to the shattering turmoil in the vice president's personal life, all at this particular stage of his career. Now, with his political machine whirring into service, the calculus becomes pretty simple: what does Biden himself want? The buzz and now the maneuverings are happening without the vice president's authorization, but with at least his acquiescence. Aides and advisers say no decision is imminent. The goal now for those who support him is to make sure he would have what he needs in place - not what Hillary Clinton has, of course, but enough to make a third presidential run realistic for Biden.

--WHAT TEAM BIDEN IS SAYING: Over the weekend, New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd reported that before he died of brain cancer in May, Beau Biden "tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values" and that the vice president has been "talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in." Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Biden, issued the following statement on Saturday: "As the Biden family continues to go through this difficult time, the Vice President is focused on his family and immersed in his work. In recent weeks, the Vice President has worked on the nuclear deal with Iran, traveled across the country to highlight the Administration's economic priorities, and more."


HILLARY CLINTON'S $2 MILLION TELEVISION ADS: ALL ABOUT HER MOM. There's one person Hillary Clinton really wants the voters of America to get to know more than anybody else. And her name is Dorothy Rodham, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Dorothy is Clinton's late mother. She died in 2011. But she's playing a starring role in her daughter's presidential campaign, and is the focus of Clinton's first television ads. On Tuesday, Clinton's campaign will begin broadcasting two TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. The one-minute spots, which will air over the course of five weeks, emphasize Clinton's mother's story over her own. The first ad, titled "Dorothy," is almost completely devoid of any discussion of Clinton's credentials. Instead, it's focused on recounting her mother's trauma-filled childhood. "I think about all the Dorothy's all over America who fight for their families, who never give up," Clinton says while video of a mother tucking her daughter in to bed plays. "That's why I'm doing this. That's why I've always done this. For all the Dorothy's."

THERE'S NO PERFECT WAY TO SORT THE CANDIDATES FOR A PRIMARY DEBATE. From FiveThirtyEight's HARRY ENTEN: "Does Fox News' use of national polls to sift a top 10 from the 17-strong GOP field make sense? That's just one of several big questions about understanding each candidate's actual chance of winning the nomination. Gov. Scott Walker, for example, currently leads Iowa surveys -- how much does that matter? Does Walker's lead in Iowa mean more than Donald Trump's short tenure atop national and New Hampshire polls? How about former Gov. Jeb Bush's barrels of money and Gov. Chris Christie's early endorsements? None of these measurements is a perfect predictor, and we don't have a very large sample size when it comes to open primary elections in the modern era. But that doesn't mean there's no signal in these early metrics, and some have been more predictive than others."

HAPPENING TODAY: Today, the Granite State is in the spotlight. The New Hampshire Union Leader's Voters First Presidential Forum is this evening and almost all of the GOP candidates will be there, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore are out, but everyone else will be there. Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are all expected to attend. It's at 6:45 PM Eastern tonight at St. Anselm College in Manchester. The event is a response to the debates and the ten candidate limit, but don't call it a debate, instead candidates will be questioned individually by a moderator.


BERNIE SANDERS LANDS A SWEET ENDORSEMENT FROM BEN & JERRY'S CO-FOUNDER. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's. The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them "as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing." In an interview with ABC's BRAD MIELKE, Cohen explained his involvement. "Finally, there's a politician worth working for," he said with a grin. "So I'm working for him." Along with an endorsement and some prepared remarks, the former CEO, 64, brought along ice cream. A line formed around the front door as he personally handed out favorites, including Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, to anyone who wanted a scoop. Nearly all of the hundreds of attendees stayed. It was ice cream weather, too. A day after sweating through his shirt at a town hall without air conditioning, Sanders spoke for almost 90 minutes, over the whir of several fans.

DONALD TRUMP PLAYS DOWN DEBATE EXPECTATIONS. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump played down expectations for the first GOP debate slated for Thursday, saying "I'm not a debater" and he would not be "throwing punches" against his opponents on the stage. "These politicians, I always say, are all talk no action. They debate all the time," Trump told ABC's JONATHAN KARL on "This Week" Sunday. "I don't debate, I build. I've created tremendous jobs, I've created a great company." "Maybe my whole life is a debate in a way, but the fact is I'm not a debater, and they are," Trump added. "With that being said, I look forward to it, we'll see what happens." The current 2016 GOP frontrunner went on to say that he doesn't anticipate attacking his opponents on the stage, saying that every attack he's made on the campaign trail has been a counterattack, according to ABC's RYAN STRUYK. "I don't think I'm going to be throwing punches," he said. "I'm not looking to attack."

BERNIE SANDERS RESPONDS TO POSSIBLE JOE BIDEN RUN. Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he's "very fond" of Vice President Joe Biden, but that "the American people... want to go beyond conventional establishment politics," ABC's MARYALICE PARKS report. Sanders made the statements in response to a question from ABC's JONATHAN KARL about Biden considering another run for president. Sanders suggested that voters are looking for a change in 2016 . "The government has to respond to the needs of the middle class, not the billionaires," he said, "I think that's what going on in this country, and I am not sure conventional politics will do it anymore." As for his primary challenger Hillary Clinton, Sanders refused to answer "yes or no" as to whether he thinks the former secretary of state and Democratic frontrunner is honest and trustworthy. According to a Quinnipiac poll released last week, 57 percent of registered voters do not think she is trustworthy. "I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton," Sanders said. "I am not going to be engaging in personal attacks against her."


RICK SANTORUM CALLS GOP DEBATE RULES 'ARBITRARY'. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Sunday that the criteria for the first Republican debate this week, which will limit participation to the Top 10 GOP candidates according to recent national polls, are "arbitrary," ABC's BEN GITTLESON notes. "These national polls are irrelevant," Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who ran for president in 2012, said on ABC's "This Week." "I was at 1 percent in the national polls four years ago and ended up winning 11 states, four million votes, won the Iowa caucus." Santorum is polling low nationally and is not expected to gain entry to the first Republican debate on Thursday, according to an ABC News analysis.

--REINCE RESPONDS: Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus responded to criticism from Santorum and others by saying he was grateful that the first two debates would include all the candidates, even if the ones polling lower would be featured in a lower-profile forum earlier in the evening. "We're proud of the fact that everyone running is going to have an opportunity," Priebus said on "This Week" Sunday. "And the reality is, and it might be a little harsh, but you can't necessarily treat someone that's polling at 18 or 20 percent the same as someone that's polling at a half a percent or 1 percent." WATCH:

WHAT AUGUST COULD MEAN FOR THE IRAN DEAL. For weeks, President Obama has had the ear of Democrats on the Iran nuclear agreement, meeting with members one-on-one and dispatching his advisers to hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill. But with members leaving town until September, the administration is losing its greatest asset in the lobbying campaign: proximity. ABC's BEN SIEGEL explains:


LINDSEY GRAHAM AND JOHN MCCAIN'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. Lindsey Graham took his secret weapon to New Hampshire this weekend: John McCain. The two attended several functions, including a barbecue for veterans, a house party, an outdoor concert and a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, ABC's BRAD MIELKE reports from the Granite State. McCain is still revered by many New Hampshire Republicans, and Graham tried to tap into that enthusiasm as they took questions together. Graham stumped for McCain in 2008, along with Joe Lieberman. Together, they were known as the "three amigos." Over the weekend, McCain returned the favor. "Great experiences in my life have been in New Hampshire," said McCain, who surprised many by winning the 2000 and 2008 primaries. "If you've been impressed today, as I hope you have been, by this candidate, then I want you to do me one favor. Tell your friends, "go see Lindsey Graham."


@markknoller: The @VP has no public events today. He's staying home in Wilmington, says his office.

@jonallendc: .@HillaryClinton pushes narrative she passed up riches to work for kids. Tougher sell after making $141M in 8 yrs. ...

@JenniferJJacobs: 6 months out from Iowa caucuses, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders tied for most days in Iowa of the Dems. ...

@ron_fournier: This is the only story you need to read about @realDonaldTrump this week ... via @AndyKroll

@JohnJHarwood: Christie: "I'm against $15 minimum wage." Against $10? "We'd have to talk about it." ...