The TAKE with Rick Klein
It’s not a full-scale revolt -- and a light presidential travel schedule has kept most Democrats from having to make the show-up-or-don’t choice posed by a visit from Joe Biden in the weeks before the midterms.
But with debate season in full swing, Democrats in make-or-break races are looking for ways to put daylight between themselves and Biden’s White House -- in a way most Republicans running this year are not seeking distance from former President Donald Trump.
On Friday, at the first and likely only Arizona Senate debate of the year, Sen. Mark Kelly called the situation at the southern border "a mess" and touted areas where he has broken with Biden on gas prices and inflation.
"When Democrats are wrong, like on the border, I call them out on it,” Kelly said, per ABC News' Libby Cathey.
That same night, in North Carolina, Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley said Biden and members of Congress "could work a whole lot harder" to address rising prices. She also refused to say if she would campaign alongside the president in the state.
“It's wrong to align me with anybody unless I specifically say what my positions are,” Beasley said, ABC’s Hannah Demissie reported.
As for their GOP opponents, Blake Masters, who is running against Kelly in Arizona with Trump’s backing, decried what he called the “Joe Biden-Mark Kelly economy.” Rep. Ted Budd, the Trump-backed Republican running for Senate in North Carolina, said flatly, “Joe Biden is on the ballot on Nov. 8, and he goes by the name this year of Cheri Beasley.”
It’s a trend that’s likely to continue this week. The first Senate debates in their respective states are on tap Monday in Ohio and Friday in Georgia, with a second Senate debate in Wisconsin scheduled for Thursday.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
The Republican path to seeing midterm success could hinge on Arizona and Nevada, as evidenced by former President Trump's swing across the two Western states over the weekend.
During a rally in Minden, Nevada, on Saturday, Trump echoed his party's campaign season rhetoric by tearing into Democrats over high inflation and claiming an "invasion" is happening at the southern border. Meanwhile, Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville also joined the event and made headlines over his claims that Democrats are "pro-crime" and that "they want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that!"
Although Trump was joined on stage by two of the Nevada Republicans he endorsed -- gubernatorial candidate Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Senate candidate Adam Laxalt -- he also took the opportunity to, yet again, tease his own possible political moves when discussing his past presidential campaigns and adding "we may have to do it again."
But it remains to be seen how members of his party would respond to a Trump run in 2024 -- including at least one of the candidates he currently backs.
A week before rallying in front of supporters with Trump, Lombardo hedged his answer during the only gubernatorial debate of the season when asked if he thought Trump was a great president, ABC's Abby Cruz reports.
"I wouldn't say great. I think he was a sound president," Lombardo said at the time.
Lombardo also diverged from the former president's false, sweeping allegations of the 2020 election having been rigged against him. When asked if he shared those views a week ago, the Clark County sheriff said, "No, I do not. I think there was a modicum of fraud but not to change the election."
However, on Saturday, Lombardo shared a different view of the former president while vowing to "bring trust back to the office [of the governor]."
"We're here to rally the ticket and who's going to help us today? Who's going to help us? The greatest president, right? Donald J. Trump,” the Republican said.
The TIP with Lalee Ibssa
As Georgia GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker dominated campaign coverage in recent days -- in the wake of him denying a claim that he paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion -- the reaction from state Democrats was slight.
Walker's opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, largely avoided making specific comments on the allegations, only voicing general criticisms about Walker when pressed by reporters.
"Here's the thing: What we're hearing about my opponent is disturbing," Warnock said at a campaign stop in Savannah on Thursday. "I think the people of Georgia have a real choice about who they think is ready to represent them in the United States Senate."
Stacey Abrams, Georgia's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, used the accusations against Walker to condemn Gov. Brian Kemp -- who suggested it wasn't his place to weigh in on Walker while saying, "I'm supporting the ticket," when asked by ABC News on Friday if Walker still has his vote.
"A Black woman faces lethal choice, and that is to either have a crystal ball and know she's pregnant before she can actually know or face forced pregnancy with very little support," Abrams said while criticizing the state's six-week abortion ban during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"In the state of Georgia, Brian Kemp has said that Herschel Walker is entitled to his personal choices, but no woman is, and that is unconscionable," Abrams continued.
Out on the campaign trail, rather than more specific criticism, Democrats have used the Walker controversy to have broader conversations about reproductive rights as some pro-Democratic advocates warn not to overestimate the effects the headlines will have on the state of the midterm races.
"While this news around the Walker family is a bombshell, it DOES NOT mean that Democrats have this election in the bag. Remember, weeks before the 2016 elections, the audio of Trump bragging about sexually abusing women came out and Republicans (including the majority of white women, and white voters) sent him to the White House. We must continue knocking every single door in order for Warnock and Abrams to win," said Care in Action Executive Director Hillary Holley.
The twists and turns of Walker's week are the focus of the new episode of Hulu's "Power Trip," streaming now, with the ABC News campaign team and George Stephanopoulos.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with a look at the Crimea bridge explosion and what it means strategically for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. ABC News contributor Stephen Ganyard leads us off. Then ABC's Stephanie Ebbs reports on the growing number of banks shifting investments away from fossil fuels and the GOP-led funds moving money elsewhere in protest. And, we have the latest from Iran as anger from protesters reaches a boiling point. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- Ohio Senate candidates JD Vance and Tim Ryan debate at 7 p.m. ET in Cleveland.
- President Biden returns to Washington from his weekend in Wilmington, Delaware. He has no public events.
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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.