The Note: Ralph Northam and Stacey Abrams speak to Democrats’ worries around race
WATCH: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is defying calls to resign after a photo depicting two men, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface, emerged in a yearbook page with his name on it.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Democrats would like to make Ralph Northam their past and Stacey Abrams their present.

But the party's future has to account for the dynamics surrounding the man who remains governor of Virginia as well as the woman who fell short in her bid to become governor of Georgia.

The frustrations the governor's party leaders want to rid themselves of and the hopes surrounding the not-governor that they will showcase after Tuesday's State of the Union address, speak to the complexities around race inside the Democratic Party. That holds true even -- and perhaps especially -- in the era of President Donald Trump.

Northam, a white man, won in a diverse Southern state in 2017 in a campaign that inexplicably didn't surface a past that included his dressing in blackface. Abrams, a black woman, lost in a diverse Southern state in 2018 despite efforts to energize voters amid voter-suppression allegations.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam arrives for a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., Feb. 2, 2019.

A historically diverse Democratic presidential field has led calls for Northam to resign -- a move that would make a young African-American man governor. And if Northam stays in office, imagine what campaigning in Virginia, a battleground state, will look like for any of them.

The Iowa caucuses are a year away. This moment is a reminder of the challenges around race that will persist in the Democratic Party long before any candidate has a chance to face Trump.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

There are only 11 days left for lawmakers to find a compromise, fund the government and avoid another partial shutdown.

Most on Capitol Hill think a deal is there to be made, if the man who prided himself on the art of the deal gets out of the way. Over the weekend, members of Congress still sounded confident and eager to find a path forward, despite the president's doubts about the process last week.

The bipartisan congressional group will keep working this week, though it's unclear if the president's State of the Union will help or hurt. It could provide a nice distraction and cover for their work, or rock their talks entirely depending on what he says.

Big picture, the clock is ticking.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax speaks during an interview in his office at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Feb. 2, 2019.

The TIP with John Verhovek

While the nation's attention rightly is focused on what the Virginia governor will do next, there is another name that America needs to familiarize itself with: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

A rising star in Virginia politics for the last decade, Fairfax would ascend to the governorship if Northam steps down or is removed from office.

Not only would Fairfax then become the nation's lone African-American governor, at 39 he would also be the youngest, immediately vaulting him into a position of prominence that few see so early in their political careers.

Fairfax, the descendant of slaves, would be the second African-American governor in Virginia's history. He would also have the opportunity to run for a full term in 2021, giving him potentially seven years to lead a state that will be vitally important to anyone hoping to win the White House in 2020.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Monday morning's episode features ABC News' Zachary Kiesch, who explains the controversy surrounding Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and a racist photo in his medical school yearbook. Then, ABC News' Tara Palmeri tells us how the president is planning to approach his upcoming State of the Union address as border security negotiations continue on Capitol Hill.


  • The president, after an 11:45 a.m. intelligence briefing, is scheduled to eat lunch with the vice president around 12:45 p.m.
  • Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will appear at "Politics & Eggs" series in Bedford, New Hampshire, at 11:30 a.m.
  • Attorney General nominee William Barr will meet with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Capitol Hill at 4 p.m.
  • Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO and author of "From The Ground Up: A Journey To Reimagine The Promise Of America," holds a book tour event in Chicago at 7 p.m. CST.
  • The Note has a new look! 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 key political moments of the day ahead. Check back tomorrow for the latest.