The Note: High and low roads traverse a week of anger and mourning

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto ORourke, right, speaks while Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit.PlayJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
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There are candidates aiming high. But there's also plenty who are going low.

Viewed a certain way, it was a soaring week of 2020 rhetoric and high-level campaigning. Democrats came out with uncommon unity to call for action to confront gun violence, with vows to lift the nation in confronting the words and actions of a president who they are holding responsible for recent, awful events.

Viewed another way, the low road was also well-traversed. Candidates cursed. A House member, who is a candidate's brother, called out President Donald Trump's campaign donors for "fueling a campaign of hate." And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heard protesters' threats of violence at his home.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto ORourke, right, speaks while Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, right, speaks while Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit.

On the trail, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke flatly labeled Trump a "white supremacist." Former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump was "fueling a literal carnage" -- and slammed what he called his "low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists."

The sharp words and even the name-calling might feel warranted in this moment of raw anger and frustration. Yet it again demonstrated the perils of running against a candidate who has remade just about every political norm.

Even in this moment of national mourning, the president sought to make the storylines about himself this week.

It's not easy for Democrats to avoid making things all about him, either.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

At the end of this otherwise somber week, the kick-off to the Iowa State Fair provided a challenging and even awkward dissonance to the 2020 campaign trail.

Between scoops of ice cream, a former vice president accused the sitting president of actively encouraging white supremacists.

With the Ferris wheel and fried Oreos in the background, Biden and other presidential candidates talked to voters about Trump's rhetoric and deep divisions over race in the country. They took poignant questions on gun safety.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Des Moines Register Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Des Moines Register Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Five more candidates will make their pitch from the famed fair soapbox on Friday, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and businessman Andrew Yang, who this week qualified for the next debate in September.

Several more will hold the mic, eat the food and take selfies at the fairgrounds this weekend as they swing through the crucial early voting state.

Maybe that's part of the job of being an elected leader: switching gears between the playful and the profound. Still, on day one of the Iowa State Fair, the good ole days of glad-handing and 2016 helicopter rides felt a tad distant and different. The seriousness of the news makes it a little strange to take in the lighthearted, family fun.

The TIP with Benjamin Siegel

The weekend's mass shootings in Texas and Ohio lingered in the minds of Iowa State Fair attendees on Thursday: "In a big crowd like this, it can happen here," Darla Connell, a retiree from Clear Lake, Iowa, said. "God forbid it would happen here but you know we all have to be observant."

PHOTO: A supporter listens as Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images
A supporter listens as Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

While many of the Democrats who attended Biden's soapbox speech roundly endorsed calls for Congress to take up proposals like universal background checks, Peri Halma, a Des Moines teacher and registered Republican, told ABC News that she agreed, "Assault weapons ban for sure, background checks for sure."

She praised Trump's first term and said she plans to vote for him in 2020. She added that he, "could take some more control and be a little more aggressive" in pushing for Congress to take up proposals after the recent shootings.

Democratic presidential candidates will return to the subject in Iowa on Saturday, at a forum hosted by gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News' Serena Marshall, who brings us the latest on those Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Mississippi. Then, ABC News' Will Carr tells us about his trip inside a migrant holding facility on the southern border. And, ABC News' Adam Kelsey checks in from the Iowa State fair ahead of a big weekend of appearances from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

  • President Donald Trump will be in New York for several closed-press fundraising events. He will end the day in Bedminster, New Jersey.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., billionaire Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and businessman Andrew Yang are in Iowa.
  • On Saturday, Bennet, Biden, Booker, Bullock, Buttigieg, Castro, de Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren and Yang are in Iowa. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld campaigns in New Hampshire.
  • On Sunday, Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, de Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Inslee, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld are in Iowa.
  • Sunday on "This Week": The Powerhouse Roundtable debates all the week's politics, with former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, former Chicago Mayor and ABC News Contributor Rahm Emanuel, Republican Strategist and ABC News Contributor Sara Fagen and Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis every weekday.

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