The Note: Shootings bring rare clarity to Democrats' 2020 race

PHOTO: Francisco Castaneda joins mourners taking part in a vigil at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Salgado NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.PlayJorge Salgado/Reuters
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Remember when the Democrats running for president were debating whether Barack Obama was liberal enough?

Neither do they. The 2020 race sounds and feels different in the wake of this weekend's pair of mass shootings, with candidates bringing an uncommon clarity to the efforts to defeat President Donald Trump.

They're being led by contenders who went far and fast in laying tragedies at Trump's feet. That's particularly true of the El Paso, Texas, massacre, where the alleged gunman appears to have written an anti-immigrant manifesto that drew inspiration from recent hate-fueled crimes.

The by-now-familiar calls for new gun laws have been joined by a concern over the impact incendiary language and policies can have on the behavior of unstable individuals, particularly when the words come from the president.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, N.J., Aug. 4, 2019. Jacquelyn Martin/AP
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, N.J., Aug. 4, 2019.

"He's given license for this toxic brew of white supremacy to fester," former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, the only Latino in the 2020 field, said on ABC News' "This Week."

"He is a racist, and he stokes racism in this country," added the other Texan running, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso native.

Moments like these can feel numbingly repetitive, particularly when the focus turns to politics. Calls for the Senate and House to end their August breaks are exceedingly unlikely to break any logjams.

Yet the aftermath of these shootings could offer more than that. The next step may belong to a president who doesn't like to take blame.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

If Congress were to come back from summer recess, which gun control measures might they tackle?

Earlier this year, House Democrats again passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would close the so-called Charleston loophole and guarantee more potential gun buyers received the scrutiny of a background check. Under current law, a gun dealer can sell a gun if the FBI takes more than three days to complete a check. This fact allowed Dylann Roof, a self-described white supremacist, to obtain the weapon he used to kill nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

Legislation passed by House Democrats earlier this year also would have added oversight and background check requirements to the sale of guns over the internet and at gun shows. The Senate has yet to vote on that bill.

PHOTO: Francisco Castaneda joins mourners taking part in a vigil at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Salgado NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. Jorge Salgado/Reuters
Francisco Castaneda joins mourners taking part in a vigil at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Salgado NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Both Ivanka Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed interested in "red flag" laws over the weekend as well, which allow family members to petition law endorsement to remove firearms from someone who may present a danger to themselves or others.

Shannon Watts, the founder of the non-partisan organization Moms Demand Action, told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on "This Week" Sunday, if she could pass one control measure, it would be background checks.

"This is an incredibly important part of the foundation of gun safety in this country, to require a background check on every gun sale," she said.

The TIP with Beatrice Peterson

For several Democratic 2020 contenders, making the third debate stage is a critical step in the race to the White House. Candidates must have 130,000 unique donors and receive 2% in four qualifying polls to make Aug. 28 deadline to make the stage. As other candidates pitch to voters in an effort to make the Houston debate, hosted by ABC News, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be taking her campaign motto to heart "service above self."

Gabbard, who is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, will be in Indonesia for two weeks for military training. She told ABC News' Rachel Scott that although she will not be on the campaign trail, her campaign will continue.

PHOTO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates, July 31, 2019, in Detroit. Paul Sancya/AP
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates, July 31, 2019, in Detroit.

"We've got a strong people-powered campaign, and so we're working on making sure that our folks are out and they're continuing to go to the fairs and the town halls and sharing our message as I will be stepping away from the campaign for two weeks to fulfill my duty to the Army National Guard."

Gabbard announced on Friday that she had met the donor threshold, but needs three more polls to make the debate stage, according to an ABC News analysis.

ONE MORE THING

Nearly five hours of contentious debate among 20 Democratic contenders over two nights last week showcased a stark ideological clash within the party over health care. Still, nearly 6 in 10 (58%) potential Democratic primary voters thought both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden made convincing arguments, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features a full wrap-up of the mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. ABC News' Marcus Moore and Ryan Burrow tell us what happened and what we know about the suspects. Then ABC News' Mike Levine and contributor Steve Gomez examine America's "hate problem." And ABC News Senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega tells us how President Donald Trump is reacting. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump delivers remarks at 10 a.m. at the White House.
  • 2020 candidates speaking at the UnidosUS 2019 Annual Conference in San Diego: Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee campaigns in Reno, Nevada.
  • Former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., campaigns in Iowa.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., campaigns in Alabama and South Carolina.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the sharpest political analysis every weekday.

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