The Note: The question of electability hangs everywhere

PHOTO: Jill Biden listens to her husband as he speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WATCH Elizabeth Warren apologizes at Native American forum

The TAKE with MaryAlice Parks

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In polls, in interviews with voters, in stump speeches and at events with a former second lady, the question of electability hangs everywhere in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden, said out loud what has typically been whispered by his campaign.

"You've got to look at who is going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, 'OK, I personally like so-and-so better,' but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump," she told supporters in New Hampshire.

While the tone was far less threatening, it rang similar to the line from President Donald Trump in the same state just last week, when he said at a rally that because of the state of the economy, "Whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me."

At that same rally, Trump ran down a list of some of his Democratic challengers and said he lamented targeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren too early.

"I did the Pocahontas thing. I hit her really hard, and it looked like she was down and out, but that was too long ago," Trump said. "I should have waited, but don't worry, we will revive it."

PHOTO: Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum, Aug. 19, 2019, in Sioux City, Iowa. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum, Aug. 19, 2019, in Sioux City, Iowa.

On Monday, Warren again apologized for her past claims about Native American ancestry. Only this week she was standing in front of tribal leaders from tribal nations around the county.

Anecdotally, Democratic primary voters often say they're fans of Warren but worry about whether she could beat Trump. They rarely talk about the issue of her DNA and ethnicity though, instead pointing to things like her gender and specific policy proposals, which may be a hard sell to a general election audience.

Ironically, while the question hangs, Warren talks a lot less than other Democratic candidates about how and why she can beat Trump.

The RUNDOWN with John Verhovek

Some of the fiercest disagreements during the first two Democratic debates centered on health care, and cemented support for or opposition to "Medicare for All" as a critical dividing line in the 2020 primary.

Now, just nine days before the Democratic National Committee announces qualifying candidates for the September debate hosted by ABC News and Univision, two leading candidates, Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, are again bickering over each others' plans for the country's embattled health care system.

"I have not been comfortable with Bernie's plan," Harris reportedly said during a recent fundraiser in the Hamptons.

But she was an original co-sponsor of Sanders' Medicare for All plan, so her comment prompted a new round of criticism from Sanders and set up another clash next month.

PHOTO: Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris participate in the second night of the first 2020 democratic presidential debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 27, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE
Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris participate in the second night of the first 2020 democratic presidential debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 27, 2019.

"I don't go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires. If I ever visited there, I would tell them the same thing I have said for the last 30 years: We must pass a Medicare for All system to guarantee affordable health care for all, not just for those who can afford it," Sanders tweeted after Harris' comments.

Harris' campaign quickly countered, pointing to the fact that co-sponsoring a plan and running for president on it are two very different things. They added that her plan is a more realistic way to preserve patient choice and achieve universal coverage.

While Biden was Harris' most direct foe in last month's debate, this most recent spat may force the California senator to confront Sanders more directly on his signature issue next month in Houston.

The TIP with Soo Rin Kim

Biden is jumping into the on-air war in the early caucus state of Iowa on Tuesday with a high-six-figure ad blitz in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Quad City and Sioux City.

His first broadcast ad buy follows investments in television campaigns from some of his rivals: Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., kicked off their television ads with the start of the Iowa State Fair. Harris has spent nearly $300,000 on air time in the Hawkeye State through the end of August, while Gillibrand's campaign announced a $1 million ad buy in Iowa, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro debuted his first television ads in the wake of the El Paso, Texas, shooting on Fox News last week, taking aim at the president during his stay in Bedminster, New Jersey.

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.

Until recent weeks, it was just former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and billionaire activist Tom Steyer running aggressive television ads. Early ad campaigns have paid off -- at least for Steyer, whose $6.5 million television blitz is playing a key role in increasing his name recognition in the weeks leading up to the deadline for the September debate. He only entered the race last month, yet he's one poll away from qualifying.

The growing number of 2020 Democrats hitting the airwaves is a reflection of the increasingly competitive primary season, with less than six months until the Iowa caucuses. In a crowded Republican primary field during the 2016 cycle, then-GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz launched his first television campaign as early as April of 2015 and Trump didn't launch television ads until January 2016.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Senior Investigative Reporter Aaron Katersky, who has the latest on the decision from the New York Police Department to fire the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Then ABC News' Katherine Faulders tells us where the White House and Congress stand on potential gun legislation. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

The FiveThirtyEight "Politics Podcast." It was just a handful of months ago that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was polling fifth or sixth nationally, with numbers in the mid-single digits. She has since overtaken Sen. Bernie Sanders to claim second place in the Real Clear Politics average of national primary polls. The FiveThirtyEight crew discusses Warren's comeback in the polls and whether she has staying power. https://apple.co/23r5y7w

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:45 p.m. They meet with the president of Romania at 2:10 p.m.
  • Pence delivers remarks on space exploration at 9:30 a.m. at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Later, he participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of Donald Tapia, the U.S. ambassador to Jamaica.
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., hosts a 10 a.m. forum in Baltimore: "Preventing, Treating and Healing Childhood Trauma in Baltimore City."
  • Speaking at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Iowa Tuesday: Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa.; former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
  • Sestak, Sanders, Delaney, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and former Vice President Joe Biden campaign in Iowa.
  • For Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, campaigns in Missouri and Iowa.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., campaigns in Minneapolis.
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Chicago.
  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., campaigns in South Carolina.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., campaigns in New Hampshire.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the sharpest political analysis every weekday.

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