The Note: Potential 2020 candidates seek out the quiet middle

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2019.PlayAndrew Harnik/AP
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It's not yet clear in this polarized political climate if the political middle will be heard from in the coming presidential campaign.

But prominent voices inside the Democratic and Republican parties -- and outside of both -- are making 2020 pitches that depend, at least in part, on making sure the center starts to have its say.

You see it in former Vice President Joe Biden, who used an audience of enthusiastic firefighters on Tuesday to push back on the notion he's too nice to non-Democrats.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2019. Andrew Harnik/AP
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2019.

"I get criticized for saying anything nice about a Republican," Biden said. "Folks, this isn't who we are, this isn't how we got here."

You see it in Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is mulling what he acknowledges would be an uphill GOP primary fight against President Donald Trump, while thinking about what Trumpism has meant for political discourse.

PHOTO: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is interviewed by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein for the Powerhouse Politics podcast, March 12, 2019. Adam Kelsey/ABC News
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is interviewed by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein for the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast, March 12, 2019.

"Most people are fed up with the partisanship and the divisiveness on both sides," Hogan said on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast Tuesday. "They're somewhere in the middle."

You also see it in Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO who will be speaking in Miami on Wednesday to outline cornerstones of his potential presidential run.

"The center is not just a political label. The center is the heart of America," Schultz plans to say, according to his political operation.

All three pitches may fail to soar in the Trump era -- and none of these three men are actually running for president yet. But it's notable that so many prominent potential candidates are aiming to give the middle some meaning.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

While disagreements abound, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing pertaining to the budget next year: Drug prices should come down.

Democrats have pounced on the president's budget proposals this week related to Medicare and Medicaid spending, accusing him of wanting to slash precious programs he promised to protect.

But on the Hill Tuesday, the acting White House budget director pushed back and said his team was working with agencies to "identify savings from common sense proposals like reducing drug pricing and costs," and that has been a priority for Democrats too.

The president last year reiterated that fighting high drug prices was a priority for him and stood by the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services to present a possible, preliminary framework for letting Medicare negotiate more in some instances.

Still, like anything in Washington, the devil is in the details. During the budget hearing Tuesday, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., questioned why the White House team could not point to a specific piece of legislation that they liked that targeted drug pricing.

Democrats have introduced a few bills and Wednesday will hold another hearing titled, "Barriers to Prescription Drugs Market Competition."

The TIP with John Verhovek

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's strong opposition to impeaching Trump sparked another round of Democratic bickering over how best to quell the growing chorus in the party who want to see aggressive action taken against the 45th president.

On Wednesday, billionaire activist Tom Steyer -- who is using his fortune to fund a pro-impeachment crusade -- is holding a town hall in the Massachusetts congressional district represented by Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has the power to request Trump's tax returns, possibly a key in building a case for impeachment.

PHOTO: April 2, 2018 file photo of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Richard Drew, File/AP Photo
April 2, 2018 file photo of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Steyer slammed Pelosi's comments on impeachment earlier this week, releasing a statement addressed to Pelosi that asked, in part: "Is defending our legal system 'worth it?' Is holding the President accountable for his crimes and cover-ups 'worth it?' Is doing what's right 'worth it?' Or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what's politically convenient?"

The calls for impeachment among some in the Democratic base are not going to stop. Look for those calls to start spilling into an increasingly crowded primary race.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here." Wednesday morning's episode features ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce, who tells us what happened when she asked Joe Biden about why he hasn't announced whether he's running for president in 2020. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics." "Powerhouse Politics" went on the road and interviewed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan -- a re-elected Republican in a deep blue state. He says "all bets are off" in this "volatile" political climate when it comes to his potential challenge of President Donald Trump in the primary. He also talks about how surviving cancer has changed him. Later Wednesday, check out a fresh "Powerhouse Politics" podcast when ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein interview Democratic Sen. Doug Jones who is in the fight for his political life in Alabama. He's also written a book called "Bending Toward Justice," about the civil rights era in Birmingham after the 1963 bombing that killed four black girls. http://apple.co/2vje5Oc

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, faces his second court sentencing at 9:30 a.m. in Washington.
  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz delivers a speech on "policy and governing from the center" at 12:30 p.m. to Miami Dade College.
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education convenes to discuss the "HHS Budget Request" for 2020 with HHS Secretary Alex Azar at 2 p.m. on Capitol Hill.
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security discusses "Securing Federal Networks and State Election Systems" at 2 p.m. on Capitol Hill.
  • The Senate Budget Committee examines the "President's Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Proposal" with the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russel Vought, at 2:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill.
  • Billionaire activist Tom Steyer hosts an "Impeachment Town Hall" at 6:15 p.m. in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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