The Note: Harris recasts race as Biden plays defense

After the first debates, the 2020 race is not what it used to be.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It wasn't just about a breakout moment or the fact that she took on the front-runner so directly.

What makes Sen. Kamala Harris' debate performance a potential game changer is at once more simple and more complicated than that.

By drawing on her biography and her background, Harris sought to speak for herself as well as expose vulnerabilities in former Vice President Joe Biden's record. It was about her, but also channeled a broader frustration about the candidates who are so far dominating polls of Democratic primary voters.

Biden, at times, has found himself defending his own record and even that of former President Barack Obama. That shows how much the party has changed, not just in his nearly five decades in public life, but inside just the two-plus years since the Obama-Biden era ended.

Biden's Democratic Party is not what it used to be. Neither, after the first debates of the 2020 cycle, is the race for president.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Twice Thursday night, Biden was asked to defend Obama's legacy, and twice he looked rather uncomfortable.

First, he said he would let undocumented immigrants buy health care on Obamacare marketplaces, though the Affordable Care Act originally didn't allow that. Second, when Biden tentatively raised his hand about decriminalizing border crossings and then struggled to follow up when asked about Obama's record on deportations.

Perhaps it's a sign of how far left the party has lurched that other Democratic candidates are willing to distinguish themselves from the former president on several topics. Or maybe the lines of questioning simply exposed a potential weakness for the former vice president -- as in, whether he has ideas different from Obama's.

Going forward , is Biden going to have to get comfortable with the idea of criticizing Obama? Saying bluntly that he would do things differently now?

The TIP with John Verhovek and Lissette Rodriguez

The main event ended Thursday night, but the spotlight on one of the biggest topics of both nights -- immigration -- continues.

On Friday, six more Democratic presidential candidates will join South Florida Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell at the Homestead Migrant Detention Center, ground zero for the contentious battle over family separations and the ongoing situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The site has seen the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, but the latest horde of candidates includes former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. He led the charge on the conversation Wednesday night after insisting that his opponents say they agree with his policy proposal to decriminalize border crossings. Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are also slated to join the visit.

Something to watch on Friday is how aggressive a pitch the candidates will make to gain access to the walled-off facility. Thus far, candidates have settled for step ladders and loud shouts to get their message across to the young men housed inside the facility, whose fates are still uncertain.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" is in Miami again to recap the second night of Democratic presidential debates. ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks walks us through the biggest moments of the night and we head into the spin room to get reaction from the candidates. Then ABC News Supreme Court Contributor Kate Shaw decodes Thursday's rulings about the citizenship question on the upcoming census and partisan gerrymandering.


  • President Donald Trump is in Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 Summit.
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson travel to Homestead, Florida, to visit the Homestead Migrant Children Detention Center Friday.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden, Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, attend the Rainbow PUSH Coalition annual convention in Chicagoon Friday.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee joins the Des Moines Democrats and Polk County Democrats and will release his "Freedom from Fossil Fuels" plan proposal to end America's growing dependence on fossil fuels Friday.
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke travels to Austin, Texas, for a public meet-and-greet event Friday.
  • The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee conducts meetings in Pittsburgh Friday and Saturday.
  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., attends the Nashua Pride Festival in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday.
  • Buttigieg kicks off Pride with a birthday bash for his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, on Saturday.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., returns to New Hampshire to make the keynote speech at the Hillsborough County Democrats Grassroots Awards Dinner and march in the Nashua Pride Parade on Saturday.
  • Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney speaks with the Asian and Latino Coalition at the Iowa State Capitol and visits with Boone and Guthrie County Democrats in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday. On Sunday, he will speak at a Health Care Reform Forum, tour the Linn County Fair, and host meet and greets in Newton, Iowa.
  • Castro will join supporters in his hometown, San Antonio, Texas, to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community as part of the "Pride Bigger Than Texas" festival on Saturday. He will also attend the Harris County Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Speaker Series in Houston Sunday.
  • Harris will speak at the Alice B. Toklas Club Annual Pride Breakfast and participate in the Pride parade in San Francisco Sunday.
  • Sunday on "This Week": ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with Sen. Bernie Sanders. And the Powerhouse Roundtable debates all the week's politics, with former New Jersey Gov. and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, Democracy for America CEO and ABC News Contributor Yvette Simpson, Fox News Contributor and former DNC Chair Donna Brazile and National Review Editor Rich Lowry.
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    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.