The Note: 2020 Democrats looking back before looking forward

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and the Reverend Al Sharpton attend Day 2 of the NAN 25th Anniversary National Convention in New York, April 14, 2016.PlayJ. Countess/WireImage/Getty Images
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It's happening quickly and, in many cases, apologetically.

Here at the midpoint of President Donald Trump's term, Democrats' race for 2020 is on. And there is a remarkable amount of looking back by candidates who would rather be looking forward.

Candidates getting into the race are seeking to atone for past moderate-to-conservative positions, with even younger Democratic hopefuls worried about how the party has jolted leftward.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day brings the single biggest day of 2020 campaigning and not-quite-yet-campaigning to date. Amid a surge of candidate announcements by 30-to-50-somethings, big appearances Monday by a few contenders in their 70s -- Sen. Bernie Sanders in South Carolina, and former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at an Al Sharpton event in Washington -- could shape perceptions from here.

All three have ideological or personal reasons to campaign with caution -- mindful of how this year is different than all others.

Those three could probably wait longer than other contenders before getting in the race. But no matter how the race turns out, they won't be escaping their pasts.

The RUNDOWN with Adam Kelsey

It's far from news that many mistrust the media, particularly those among the president's most ardent supporters. But the revelation last week that components of a BuzzFeed News story detailing interactions between the president and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen were inaccurate already has dialed that fervor of doubt up a notch.

It's perhaps ironic though that the confirmation of "inaccuracies" in the report came from the special counsel's office, which has been characterized by Trump in much of the same manner as the media: engaged in a "witch hunt," chasing down "hoaxes" and plagued by conflicts of interest.

The White House has long been inconsistent in its vilification or defense of certain news outlets, sometimes highlighting statistics and anecdotes from an organization that they labeled "fake news," just hours earlier.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law 20th Anniversary Gala in Las Vegas, Dec. 1, 2018. Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law 20th Anniversary Gala in Las Vegas, Dec. 1, 2018.

And in a similar way, in the rush to push back against the BuzzFeed story, Trump's defenders might've painted themselves into a corner. By promoting the statement from the special counsel's office, they've acknowledged something of a truth: Robert Mueller and his team appear to be playing their investigation straight.

Now, when a final report comes, it could take some rhetorical gymnastics by the administration to explain why the special counsel's office -- which had it right on Friday -- suddenly has it all wrong.

The TIP with John Verhovek

Former Vice President Joe Biden will make his first major speech of 2019 on Monday, amid intense speculation about whether he will seek the Democratic nomination for president.

In many ways it's Biden's pending decision that has frozen the Democratic field in place. Monday's remarks in Washington at the National Action Network's annual breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be the first tangible example of the message that will be at the heart of a Biden presidential bid.

Establishing a foothold of support within the African-American community will also be vitally important if Biden wants to compete in the early primary state of South Carolina, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey's Sen. Cory Booker will be on Monday.

But Biden himself seems content to take his time with the decision. Unlike many of his potential Democratic rivals, he already has the kind of name recognition and fundraising ability that would take others decades to build.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, who explains why Democrats are not on board with Trump's offer to end the partial government shutdown. Then, ABC News' Conor Finnegan brings us up to speed on U.S.-North Korea negotiations, as both sides announce a second summit in late February.


  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will appear live on "Good Morning America."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston at 8:30 a.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington at 8:30 a.m.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., will speak at the annual King Day at the Dome rally in Columbia. The prayer service begins at 8:30 a.m., a march lineup at 9:30 a.m. and then a state house rally at 10:15 a.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will also be a speaker at the annual King Day at the Dome rally and then he's speaking at a town-hall meeting in Columbia.
  • Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and San Antonio mayor, will participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in San Antonio at 10 a.m. CST.
  • Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will participate in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the National Action Network House of Justice at 1 p.m.

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