The TAKE with Rick Klein
President Joe Biden often invites the comparisons to the man he has called the "former guy," "the great MAGA king" or, simply, "my predecessor."
Former President Donald Trump's name, though, is well-known across the world -- and specifically and with notable fondness in the region Biden has been visiting this week.
His name was never far from focus during Biden's time in Israel, amid questions about Iran's nuclear ambitions and fond Israeli remembrances of Trump's diplomatic moves, including his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Things might get more awkward on Friday, when Biden meets with a group of Saudi rulers that will include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Salman's role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi drew harsh criticism from then-candidate Biden of both the Saudis and Trump, who refused to blame Salman. Biden's campaign vow to make Saudi rulers "in fact the pariah that they are" has long since faded amid the realities of presidential leadership and world affairs.
Biden on Thursday would not explicitly say whether he would raise Khashoggi's murder when he meets with Saudi leaders, saying instead that his views were "absolutely, positively clear."
Such clarity will be for Biden to define through the rest of this trip and beyond. It serves as a reminder that effective political contrasts with his former predecessor might only get harder to make from here.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
As the only state holding primary elections this month, Maryland will be in the 2022 spotlight next Tuesday -- but that attention could linger given that voters may be waiting on the final results for days.
The expected delay is the burden of state law, which prevents Maryland's election officials from opening and counting mail ballots before 10 a.m. on the Thursday after Election Day. That requirement makes it likely that a similar scenario to Pennsylvania's May primary elections will play out as Maryland officials deal with a backlog of ballots that need to be processed -- all amid narrowing election margins.
During the pandemic-era 2020 campaign season, the state's term-limited GOP Gov. Larry Hogan allowed for the pre-canvassing of mail ballots to take place. However, this year, Hogan vetoed a bill that would have permanently given election officials more than a week to process incoming mail ballots due to concerns over provisions in the bill regarding voter signature verification.
In practice, as was seen in 2020, the situation has the potential to open the door for election denial speculation as voters wait on ballots to be processed after Election Day in order to decide the winner -- a prospect that becomes less likely if a particular candidate ends up winning by a landslide.
A landslide in either of the state's gubernatorial primaries remains to be seen, but it's unlikely. Democrats are attempting to elbow one another out of a nine-person battle that is currently led by former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, and author and former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore. Meanwhile, across the aisle, Republicans continue to grapple with Trump's influence as his endorsed candidate, Dan Cox, spars with former Hogan Cabinet member Kelly Schulz.
The TIP with Hannah Demissie
Nearly two weeks before the Arizona primary, Trump will stop in the state to stump for his slate of preferred candidates.
He is set to hold a rally on Saturday in Prescott, where he'll deliver "remarks in support of Kari Lake for Governor, Blake Masters for U.S. Senate, and the entire Arizona Trump Ticket." Trump has also thrown his support behind Mark Finchem, for secretary of state, and state attorney general hopeful Abe Hamadeh.
A common thread ties all these candidates together: They have all pushed the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
Trump's visit to Arizona this weekend is his last major effort to push his picks over the finish line and make sure they are the GOP nominees in their races in a state where he lost to then-candidate Joe Biden in 2020 -- and both of the state's Senate seats flipped blue under his administration.
Trump's appearance in Arizona will also shine a light on his power battle with Arizona's current Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited and has endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson for governor and Beau Lane for secretary of state.
Ducey wrote on Twitter that he was "proud" to endorse Lane and that he could not be "bought" or "bullied."
"The 2022 elections haven't even been held yet, and already we're seeing speculation doubting the results – especially if certain candidates lose. It's one of the most irresponsible things I can imagine."
Ducey's comments come after Finchem and Lake both said that they would not concede their primary races if they lose. Instead, they said in late June, they would demand recounts.
The primary results could signal how much influence Trump has in the state, depending on how well his candidates do against their Ducey-backed competitors.
NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight
8. That's the number of percentage points the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects Democrats to eventually lose the House popular vote by, if we only look at what we call the "fundamentals" -- or factors like the president's approval rating, the result of previous congressional elections, whether or not the election is a midterm and the degree of polarization currently present in politics. But, of course, the FiveThirtyEight forecast looks at much more than just the fundamentals. It looks at a lot of polls, for instance, and as FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver writes, the polls, especially those on Biden's approval and the race for Congress, are telling a very different story right now. Read more from Nate on how presidential approval and a party's midterm performance is -- and isn't -- related.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with a look at the questions surrounding Biden's trip to the Middle East and whether he will bring up Jamal Khashoggi's murder when he meets with Saudi leaders. ABC's Mary Bruce leads us off. Then, ABC's Erielle Reshef reports on the lawyer filing a lawsuit against Uber over assault claims. And, ABC's Trevor Ault goes to Wyoming to learn about the state's skyrocketing suicide numbers and how plans for the new 988 mental health crisis line could help. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND
- President Joe Biden continues his trip to the Middle East, in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Among other appearances, he meets with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and then with Saudi royals including King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.
- At 11 a.m. ET, House Speaker Nancy and lawmakers will hold a press event ahead of the House passing the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act.
- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker will deliver remarks at the annual Leadership Blue Gala held by Florida Democrats this Saturday in Tampa.
- ABC’s “This Week”: Roundtable: Former North Dakota Senator and ABC News Contributor Heidi Heitkamp, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, National Review Editor and Bloomberg Opinion Columnist Ramesh Ponnuru and Washington Post Early 202 Co-Author and Washington Post Live Anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell.
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 Monday for the latest.