The Note: Uncertainties loom over 2020 campaign

From the front-runners on down, uncertainties are threatening their campaigns.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The first votes of 2020 are barely a month away. But there's a whole lot of big questions that need answering before we get there. 

There's an impeachment trial to squeeze in -- unless there isn't. There's political warfare in Washington -- and now the possibility of real-life fighting with Iran or North Korea, if not both. 

There are fundraising numbers to announce and spin. And there's another debate to qualify for -- unless a Senate trial means it doesn't happen as scheduled.

Uncertainties are threatening to subsume campaigns. That goes for the five senators who are running for president, the front-running candidate who might be on some proposed lists of impeachment witnesses and, really, any candidate who wants to control a news cycle or two. 

In some ways, 2019 saw both everything and nothing happen in the campaign. A year that revealed the endurance of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders also featured the emergence of Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang -- not to mention surprise drop-outs and conspicuous failures to launch

Now comes the time for some answers. The forces controlling the race appear to be bigger than any candidate can hope to handle.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

At the end of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day, dozens of Bernie Sanders’ supporters flooded the street, carrying signs and chanting to show-off their support for the Vermont senator in front of the captive crowd.

Anecdotally, the moment was indicative of the sort of grassroots enthusiasm -- often unrivaled -- which Sanders enjoys and fosters.

Last month at the Democratic debate in Los Angeles, his team made clear that they like their chances of winning the largest state in the union, which starts early voting the same day as the Iowa caucus.

Wednesday, his campaign claimed they reached an impressive fundraising high-water mark too: 5 million unique contributions so far this race. According to the campaign, Sanders raised $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. By comparison, Pete Buttigieg’s team says he raised more than $24.7 million in the same time.

Of course, many of those individual donations for Sanders come from dedicated, repeat donors. Still, it’s quantitative evidence of his staying power.

The TIP with Justin Gomez

After announcing another giant fundraising quarter to wrap up 2019, Buttigieg starts 2020 with deeper pockets and free of his day job as he's now the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg starts a four-day trip to New Hampshire on Thursday after his campaign revealed that they raised $24.7 million in the fourth quarter, and over $76 million since the beginning of 2019. For all the criticism and attacks against Buttigieg in recent weeks about his high-dollar fundraising, the campaign also noted that 98% of contributions last year were less than $200, and the average contribution was $38.

With some of his competitors possibly being forced off the trail for a Senate impeachment trial later this month, Buttigieg is clear of his mayoral duties and focused on the presidential race. But he won't say if that creates an advantage for him.

"I'll let others figure out the kind of political consequences. This is one of those moments that's just got to be beyond politics because it's so grave and so important," Buttigieg said after a town hall in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Saturday.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Foreign correspondent James Longman and ABC News contributor retired Col. Stephen Ganyard who walk us through the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and what it means for the U.S.-Iran relationship going forward. Then, ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs explains the latest Food and Drug Administration action against e-cigarettes aimed at combating teen smoking addiction. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ONE MORE THING

Presidential contenders ended 2019 with the close of books on the fourth fundraising quarter, marking another significant turning point that could possibly reorder the trajectory of the primary contest. The fourth quarter covers the months of October, November and December and as more candidates release the details on their recent fundraising numbers, ABC News will continue to update this story.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.
  • Tom Steyer continues his Iowa bus tour with a meet-and-greet event in Logan at 9 a.m., a community conversation in Onawa at 2:10 p.m. and a town hall in Sioux City at 6 p.m.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., holds two town halls in Iowa, one in Sioux City at 11:30 a.m. and the other in Johnston at 7 p.m. She also holds a conversation event in Ankeny, Iowa, at 5:15 p.m.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has two town halls in New Hampshire, the first is in Concord at 12:45 p.m. and the second in Hanover at 5 p.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds one town hall in Tama, Iowa, beginning at 1 p.m. and another town hall in Muscatine, Iowa, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden holds two community events in Iowa. The first event begins at 1:30 p.m. in Anamosa and the second event begins at 4:45 p.m. in Manchester.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., participates in a legal forum at the University of New Hampshire School of Law at 1:30 p.m. and a political forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at 3:30 p.m. He then hosts a "Conversation with Cory" in Exeter at 7:15 p.m.
  • Andrew Yang participates in an office opening ceremony at 4 p.m. in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and a town hall at 7 p.m. in Rochester.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a town hall in Epsom, New Hampshire, at 6 p.m.
  • Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in a 6:30 p.m. town hall in Keene, New Hampshire.
  • 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.