The Note: Romney, Biden confront powerful forces inside changing parties

They're fighting strong political tides that could define this election, beyond.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

At this moment, 2012 could not feel farther away from 2020. Romney and Biden are struggling with the political identities of their parties, as they fight strong political tides in ways that could define this election and beyond.

Biden is standing for experience and practicality in New Hampshire. He is warning of the "risk" involved in supporting either a relative neophyte or a passion-inspiring political veteran whose positions could open Democrats up to attack, all in advance of Friday night's debate in New Hampshire on ABC.

The forces that propelled former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa may have felt like a "gut punch" to Biden. But they are long-developing trends in the Democratic Party toward leaders who are new and/or bold.

Romney, meanwhile, cited what he called a "grievously wrong" action and a powerful wariness of "history's rebuke and the censor of my own conscience" in casting a surprise vote to remove President Donald Trump from office on an impeachment charge.

Trump was acquitted 52-48, ending impeachment once and for all. Romney only needed to look around the House chamber during Tuesday's raucous State of the Union address -- or look inside his own family, at his niece who runs the Republican National Committee -- to realize how lonely he is in his party.

But Romney's vote robbed Republicans of the argument that impeachment was a purely partisan exercise, and signaled that not all in the GOP are loyal to the president. Trump called it all a "witch hunt," yet his party's most recent nominee before him refused to be haunted by his conclusion that it wasn't.

Impeachment is not the same as struggles inside a primary. The convergence of these events is a coincidence of the calendar -- or just part of a week that has everything happening all at once.

But if neither Biden nor Romney fully recognize what their parties have become, they may still be proven at least partially right. They seem lonely now, but they will not be ignored.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The formal end of the Senate impeachment trial will be a reset on the campaign trail too.

In the final days before the Iowa caucuses it was downright weird that three of the top five candidates were out of the state. Sens. Sanders' and Elizabeth Warren's campaigns frantically tried to maximize the time on the ground when their candidates did make it back. The panic and last-minute planning was palpable.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign manager too said he thought the time away from voters could have hurt her momentum.

The same sort of inequity has been real since Iowa as well. In the last few days, Buttigieg and Biden have been in New Hampshire without the distraction the others have had back in Washington. The two of them were able to talk to reporters and move around the state unencumbered.

It was noteworthy that despite being pulled away from the campaign, Sanders maintained his support in Iowa.

Early returns show he is on track to have won the most votes in those caucus rooms.

Moving forward, the playing field will be -- in a small way -- more level.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

It's been more than 48 hours since Iowans first gathered at nearly 1,700 caucus sites Monday night, yet the state Democratic Party continues to be scarred by mishaps in the aftermath. Shortly after releasing a fourth wave of partial returns Thursday, the state party announced they would have to update the newest batch due to a "minor correction."

For a state that was -- just four days ago -- thought to catapult underdogs to national prominence, the fumbles appear to be diminishing its outsize influence, not only in this cycle but for those to come.

Nevertheless, one underdog, who started the 2020 contest as a small city mayor with a hard to pronounce last name, is locked in a very tight race for the top spot for state delegates, which will ultimately determine a winner out of Iowa. With 97% of statewide precincts reporting, Buttigieg only leads his next closest rival, Sanders, by .1% in SDEs. Buttigieg's lead is currently fueled by strong performances in counties stratified across the state, from Iowa's conservative and rural northwestern corner in Webster, Ida and Calhoun to blue collar areas in Marion County, to swing counties -- including Lee and Allamakee -- that voted for both President Barack Obama and Trump.

But even with a geographically diverse story to tell to counter his more racially homogenous crowds at campaign stops, Buttigieg's ability to draw support across Iowa's 99 counties might just be overlooked amid the chaos.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran on the political and historical consequences of the impeachment trial. Then, ABC News' Rachel Scott checks in from New Hampshire as the Iowa Democratic Party continues to release results from Monday night's caucuses. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics " podcast. From the Iowa caucuses to President Donald Trump's acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, February has already been a busy month for politics. On this week's episode, the team breaks down what's happened and looks ahead to New Hampshire with guest Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice and former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. http://apple.co/2Zfz5nD

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, appears on ABC's "The View" at 11 a.m.
  • President Donald Trump makes a statement from the White House at noon about impeachment.
  • Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton at 7:45 a.m.
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld visits the Hudson Litchfield Rotary Club in Derry, New Hampshire, at 7:15 a.m.
  • Tom Steyer visits with Teamsters Local 633 in Manchester, New Hampshire, at 7:30 a.m. Later, he has a town hall in Keene at 5:30 p.m.
  • Buttigieg has a fundraising event in New York City at 8:30 a.m. He then speaks with New Hampshire veterans in Merrimack at 2:30 p.m. Later, he appears on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
  • Andrew Yang has a town hall at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, at 12:30 p.m. Later, he has back-to-back town halls in Dover at 6 p.m. and in Exeter at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks at the Portsmouth Rotary Club in Greenland, New Hampshire, at 12:45 p.m. He then has a Timberland employee town hall in Stratham at 3 p.m. Later, he has a house party in Brentwood at 6:30 p.m.
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick participates in a "Laconia Democrats Celebration" in Laconia, New Hampshire, at 5 p.m.
  • The University of New Hampshire in Durham hosts a forum on college debt in the 2020 elections featuring Yang, Delaney, Weld and Patrick, beginning at 5 p.m.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has a town hall in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, at 6 p.m.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a get-out-the-vote event at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire, at 6:15 p.m.
  • CNN hosts four back-to-back Democratic presidential town halls at Saint Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire, featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Patrick, beginning at 8 p.m.
  • New Hampshire Democratic Debate: The first debate after the Iowa caucuses will be hosted by ABC News/WMUR-TV/Apple News on Friday. ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "World News Tonight" Anchor and Managing Editor David Muir and ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis will moderate the debate, which airs from 8 p.m. (EST) to 11 p.m. (EST). They will be joined in questioning by WMUR-TV Political Director Adam Sexton and WMUR-TV News Anchor Monica Hernandez. The Democratic Debate will air live nationally on the ABC Television Network and locally on WMUR-TV. ABC News will livestream the debate on ABC News Live featured on Apple News, Roku, Hulu, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the ABC News site and mobile phone apps. WMUR-TV will also livestream the debate on www.WMUR.com and WMUR's mobile app.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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