The TAKE with Rick Klein
Almost 2 million people have already voted in this year's general election -- a level of participation reached earlier than ever in a midterm cycle, according to the University of Florida's U.S. Elections Project.
With 22 days -- and what may be more than 100 million more ballots -- to go before Nov. 8, the pace of voting is set to pick up even as questions grow around almost every aspect of voting: access to ballots, manpower running elections, the pace and integrity of vote counting and, of course, whether results will be accepted by losing Republicans up and down the ballot.
Early voting starts Monday in Georgia, a state at the center of so many of 2020's political storms and where additional voting restrictions have been imposed since then. Monday night's debate between Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is likely to surface questions about 2022 in a high-profile way.
Other key states, meanwhile, are already warning that vote counting could take days after Election Day to complete -- and that if that happens, it doesn't indicate there's automatically something to mistrust about the results.
On Sunday on CNN, Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake again refused to commit to conceding if she loses and laid the groundwork for sowing mistrust if the winner isn't known on election night: "We don't want to be counting for 10 days," Lake said.
With similar messaging out of Republicans for top offices in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and a range of other states, Democrats are picking up the intensity of their messaging on the subject. Lake's Democratic opponent, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, responded by saying Lake's position is "absolutely disqualifying."
While campaigning in Oregon over the weekend, President Joe Biden cited state legislative and other down-ballot races where GOP candidates could impact "whether or not the votes are counted, federally or locally, and who gets to make those judgments."
With the House Jan. 6 committee having likely finished with its public hearings, concerns are being voiced by some lawmakers that last year's Capitol riot might be a precursor to even more consequential efforts to overturn outcomes.
"What happened on Jan 6 was terrible. What led up to that and what happened since is what I'm more worried about," committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
With about three weeks until Election Day, Democrats running in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin are getting a boost from a popular former president: Barack Obama.
Starting next week, Obama is slated to make stops to campaign for the Democratic tickets in each of those three states. An appearance from him could be considered a net positive for candidates in races with razor-thin margins, particularly in Senate contests that could determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill. Visits from President Joe Biden on the other hand, given that his approval numbers remain underwhelming, come with more political baggage for Democrats fighting for every single vote.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate nominee Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes greeted Obama's announced trip with a warm statement -- though Barnes was glaringly absent from a Biden visit to the state in September (his campaign blamed scheduling).
"Could not be more excited to have him back in Wisconsin to join us on the trail," Barnes said.
Obama, according to a recent interview with "Pod Save America," intends to address both Democratic legislative victories and the threat election denialism poses to democracy, not only in the high-profile gubernatorial and senatorial races but also down-ballot. He's expected to challenge the rhetoric of GOP candidates like Kristina Karamo, who has pushed false claims about the outcome of the 2020 election in Michigan and is running to oversee the state's elections.
"If you combine the deep concerns about our democracy with the concrete accomplishments that this administration has been able to deliver -- because we had a narrow majority in both the House and the Senate -- that should be enough to inspire people to get out," Obama said.
Only time will tell if the inspiration he speaks of will actually come to fruition and make a difference for Democrats at the polls.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
Iowa's Senate race appears to be tightening less than a month before polls close, as retired Navy admiral and Democrat Mike Franken takes on incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grassley, who is 89, is seeking his eighth term in office after being elected in landslide victories since the 1980s.
Despite Grassley's position as one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the upper chamber, a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll showed a narrow margin separating Grassley's 46% lead among likely voters from that of Franken's 43%.
Although Grassley's long tenure in the Senate could be seen as an asset among some voters, his age could be a concern for others. (Democrats have said the same about Joe Biden, who is 79.) If the senator wins in November, he would be 95 years old upon completion of that term, which he has said he intends to fulfill.
Franken's campaign is also seeing hurdles. As first reported last month by the conservative website Iowa Field Report, a former Franken staffer accused the Democratic candidate of kissing her on the mouth without her consent. The incident was filed with the Des Moines Police Department, and the case was closed as "unfounded" with no charges filed. Franken has denied the accusation.
While Democrats have struggled in recent cycles to make gains in the perennial presidential battleground, the small decrease in the margin of Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's 2020 victory compared to her initial 2014 win could open the door to promising possibilities this year. Meanwhile Republicans are looking toward a broader map of opportunities -- in Colorado and Washington -- to go on the offense.
"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.
ONE MORE THING
Paulina Tam is one of seven ABC News campaign reporters embedded in battleground states ahead of the November midterms. Tam is based in the Midwest and had a bustling schedule last week as the election season enters its final stretch with a series of anticipated debates. Here, she recaps her week. See more of Tam's work with the embed team and anchor George Stephanopoulos on Hulu's "Power Trip." https://abcn.ws/3yNINkK
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with ABC's Karen Travers on the latest on Ukraine and its allies. Then ABC's Mona Kosar Abdi reports on the arrested of the suspected Stockton, California, serial killer. And, ABC News medical contributor John Brownstein breaks down what to know about the latest COVID-19 variant. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Joe Biden will depart New Castle, Delaware, en route the White House at 11:25 a.m. ET, arriving back at 12:20 p.m.
- Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at 1:30 p.m. ET.
- Georgia gubernatorial candidates Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican, and Democrat Stacey Abrams meet for a debate at 7 p.m. ET.
- Ohio's Senate candidates Tim Ryan, the Democratic U.S. House member, and Republican J.D. Vance meet for a debate at 7 p.m. ET.
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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Tuesday for the latest.