The Note: Howard Schultz forces Democrats into early reckoning

PHOTO: Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks appears on ABCs "The View," Jan. 29, 2019.PlayABC
WATCH Ex-Starbucks CEO considering 2020 run

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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A man who enraged the party by leaving it behind may wind up bringing more help to the Democratic Party in 2020 than he could imagine.

That's a big maybe surrounding Howard Schultz's announced presidential ambitions and his ongoing book tour. Conventional wisdom asserts a third-party candidate could doom efforts to defeat President Donald Trump, but Schultz has been firing back at suggestions that he could throw the race to Trump by siphoning votes from the eventual Democratic nominee. He's also offered a series of harsh critiques of Democratic candidates' plans on taxes, higher education and health care -- even labeling Sen. Kamala Harris' Medicare-for-all plan as "not American."

"In order to run as a Democrat today, you have to fall in line with free Medicare for everybody, free -- free college for everybody, a free job for everybody," Schultz said on "The View." "We can't afford to do it free."

The early part of the Democratic race has been devoid of major policy disagreements. That's in large part because the major candidates have moved significantly to the left of where the party's middle seemed to be just one election cycle ago.

Maybe that's where Democrats want to or have to land in 2020. At least now, though, they have to talk about it -- in part because Schultz is forcing the conversation.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Kicking off Wednesday is the most high-profile conference committee in Congress in the last few years. A team of 17 lawmakers, nine from the House and eight from Senate, will meet publicly on Capitol Hill to formally begin negotiations on funding for border security in the hope of avoiding another shutdown in just a few weeks.

PHOTO: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is seen during a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee markup of the FY2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, July 19, 2018, in Washington D.C. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is seen during a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee markup of the FY2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, July 19, 2018, in Washington D.C.
PHOTO: Rep. Tom Graves walks down the House steps following the final scheduled votes of the week, Jan. 19, 2018. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images, FILE
Rep. Tom Graves walks down the House steps following the final scheduled votes of the week, Jan. 19, 2018.

The president last week ended the record-long partial shutdown by agreeing with Democrats to let a congressional team get to work to reconcile party differences over spending on a wall or any other possible border improvements.

On ABC News' "The Briefing Room" on Tuesday, both Democrat and Republican House lawmakers assigned to this new conference committee said they thought the scope of the work should be narrow.

Chairperson of the House Appropriations committee, Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., struck down the idea of raising the country's debt ceiling as a part of this big deal. And Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said he thought any legal protection for the "Dreamers" was "outside the scope out this committee" too.

Limiting the debate could work, but it could also make it harder to find sweeteners to win over skeptics.

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

When Sen. Sherrod Brown won reelection by more than 6 points in Ohio last November, Democrats immediately eyed the senator -- then perhaps best known for the frequency by which he is labeled "rumpled" -- as the potential solution to their Midwest problem.

In 2016, Trump won Michigan and Wisconsin each by less than a point and the Buckeye State by more than 8 points -- three states and fewer than 400,000 total votes that could've tipped the election to Hillary Clinton.

It's fitting then that Brown, who is now considering a presidential run, will launch a listening tour in Cleveland on Wednesday, focused on the blue-collar issues central to winning over the Rust Belt.

PHOTO: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, speaks alongside his wife Connie Schultz, left, during the Ohio Democratic Party election night watch party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. John Minchillo/AP, FILE
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, speaks alongside his wife Connie Schultz, left, during the Ohio Democratic Party election night watch party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.

Brown's "Dignity of Work" tour, which eventually will take him to Iowa and New Hampshire, will call attention to the country's stagnant wages and rising cost of living. It also will provide the senator with the first substantial platform to test out his message.

Analyses of how Trump tapped into the American worker's psyche have oscillated between arguments about economics and identity, but several red-district and state Democrats, like Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., were successful last year after harnessing support from labor unions. Though Brown may still not be ready to make an official announcement, his tour could be the first attempt by a presidential candidate to rally those groups.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Wednesday morning's episode features ABC News' Devin Dwyer, who says acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has both Democrats and Republicans concerned after his recent comments about the Mueller investigation. Then, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz explains why top intelligence officials largely went against President Donald Trump while testifying about the global threat assessment. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" Podcast. On Wednesday's episode, ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein talk to Jon Ward, Yahoo News' senior political correspondent and the author of "Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party." https://bit.ly/2w091jE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an ABC News contributor and author of "Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics," will appear on "The View."
  • The U.S. Senate and House Appropriations committees hold a conference meeting to consider Homeland Security appropriations at 1:30 p.m. in Washington.
  • Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference at 2:30 p.m. in Washington following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
  • Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney holds a meet and greet with Mills County Democrats at 11:30 a.m. in Glenwood, Iowa, then holds Council Bluffs and Sioux City campaign office openings at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.
  • Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO and author of "From The Ground Up: A Journey To Reimagine The Promise Of America," holds a book tour event at 4 p.m. local time at Arizona State University.
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown kicks off his "Dignity of Work" tour in Brunswick, Ohio, at 7:30 p.m. EST.
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