The Note: Candidates seek debate breakthroughs in overstuffed week

The 10 leading Democratic contenders are set to descend on Houston this week.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The 10 leading Democratic contenders are set to descend on Houston this week, many of them facing new urgency around the need to break through in a crowded field.

But before they get to Thursday night’s debate on ABC and Univision, consider some of what will happen first.

In addition, the 9/11 anniversary arrives amid the revelation of aborted presidential talks with the Taliban. And there are new developments in a trade war with China that has markets on edge.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll solidifies perceptions of a top tier of candidates that includes three who will be center stage Thursday.

Biden’s rivals are seeking out new ideological and generational arguments this week. It’s harder, though, to shape events when it’s nearly impossible to keep up with them.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Congress comes back into session this week and once again polling suggests there is significant public support for gun safety legislation.

According to Monday’s new ABC News/Washington Post poll, even gun-owning households and individuals skeptical that stricter gun safety legislation might reduce gun violence, there is still broad and sweeping support for some of the most basic legislation on the table.

For example, 82% of respondents who said they had a gun in the household agreed that they too supported so-called red-flag laws to keep guns away from individuals identified as a possible risk to themselves or others (compared to 91% of people without guns in their homes).

Similarly, 80% of people who identified as being less confident that gun control measures will reduce violent incidents still said they were in support of universal background checks, including for private sales and at gun shows. That’s compared to an eye-popping 97% of those who are confident that gun safety measure will help reduce violence.

As has been noted all summer, it is rare to have such consensus on anything in U.S. politics these days, but the president has shown a willingness to ignore popular opinion before and could do so again.

The TIP with Cheyenne Haslett

Though both Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will split center stage on Thursday night, it’s all but guaranteed that it will be the senator from Massachusetts who is painted in a new light.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Biden holding his ground as this summer’s front-runner, but while Warren saw a gain, Biden did not advance. And now, for the first time, she’ll take a podium directly next to Biden, the candidate who has stood front and center in every debate so far. But despite the rising anticipation over their matchup, Warren said it won’t change her approach.

In fact, these debates-- allowing candidates just about a minute of response time and requiring them to share their time with nine other candidates -- don’t compare to the debates Warren excelled at in her high school years, when she was a state champion and would spend hours with her debate teammates preparing to extensively map out an argument on a single topic before a judge.

Asked in New Hampshire on Saturday how she’s preparing, Warren said simply, "Can we just start with the fact that these are not debates like those were debates?"


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who explains where peace talks with the Taliban stand after President Donald Trump scuttled a meeting between the two sides at Camp David. Then, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein helps break down the latest ABC News/Washington Post polling around guns as Congress returns to Washington.


  • President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Valor and Heroic Commendations in a ceremony at the White House. In the afternoon he holds a briefing with acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan. He later attends a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
  • Vice President Mike Pence travels to North Carolina.
  • Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., campaigns in New Hampshire.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigns in Iowa and Colorado.
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro campaigns in Texas.
  • 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 key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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