Instabilities and contradictions shape political landscape: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Washington is hopelessly paralyzed until just enough bipartisanship breaks through to avoid another crisis.

The pandemic isn’t over, but neither is it dominating most people’s lives anymore. The economy isn’t great, but it’s not terrible, either — with new inflation figures out Friday that are likely to contribute to both sides of that ledger.

President Joe Biden isn’t particularly popular, though his policies are consistently outpolling him and his party. Grand clashes with China and Russia are looming, except with just enough diplomatic wiggle room to stop the worst kind of fallout.

Those are just a few of the contradictory trends and impulses that are shaping a political landscape where, to quote lobbyist Bruce Mehlman’s latest slide deck, “uncertainty, volatility and disruption are the new normal.”

“2022 will neither be the best of times nor worst of times,” Mehlman writes, citing COVID-19, U.S.-China relations, the state of the economy and even brand management as areas where things are looking neither glorious nor calamitous.

Politics isn’t great at processing nuance, and any of the above issues and more can take a sudden turn in any direction.

But just three weeks before the calendar turns, both parties are left strategizing around uncertain dynamics. The only political constant for two decades now has been the value of running on change — and there’s little indication that that’s about to go away.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

New York Attorney General Letitia James has suspended her run for governor; she will instead run for reelection in 2022.

James cited unfinished investigations in a tweet announcing her decision. Her announcement came Thursday, on the same day reports surfaced asserting that James will seek to depose former President Donald Trump as it relates to possible fraud within the Trump Organization.

“There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job,” James tweeted.

James’ decision makes incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul’s path to the Democratic nomination clearer. Hochul took office after a disgraced Andrew Cuomo resigned in the wake of James’ investigation into sexual misconduct.

“This is a very bad day for Donald Trump and the NRA when we have when we have Tish James, one of the finest attorney generals in the country, very focused on making sure that justice is done,” Hochul said Thursday when asked about James leaving the governors race.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Although it remains to be seen whether legal battles over Texas’ redistricting maps affect next year’s political timelines, for now, the first day of early voting in the state’s 2022 elections is coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the start of a weekslong power grid failure.

Gubernatorial candidates are already seizing on imminent evidence of the grid’s efficacy as campaign platforms. In a recent interview with local media, incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott insisted there won’t be a repeat of last year’s devastation.

“I signed 12 new laws after that storm to make sure our power grid is resilient and reliable and stable even during the harshest of winter storms,” Abbott said.

Meanwhile, the possibility of another winter power collapse is becoming a focal point for Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke as he makes his rounds throughout the state.

“The way that I’ve heard one energy expert put it (is) you can detail your truck, you can tune it up, you can get the oil changed, you can put new tires on it. But if you don’t have gas in the tank, it’s not worth anything to you. And that’s kind of the situation that we’re going to have in Texas if we have a significant extreme weather event,” the former congressman said during a livestream on Thursday.

The latest polling from Quinnipiac University shows O’Rourke facing an uphill battle against Abbott. In a head-to-head matchup among registered voters in the gubernatorial race, Abbott currently leads O’Rourke by 15 points.


ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Friday morning’s episode begins with an interview with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who tells us the must-pass national defense bill does not go far enough in protecting sexual assault survivors in the military. Then, a historian discusses the impact that one Starbucks shop’s vote to unionize could have on the broader labor movement in the country. And, actor Jussie Smollett is found guilty of falsely reporting a hate crime. ABC News’ Alex Perez reports on the trial from Chicago.


  • At 11 a.m., President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with their spouses, attend the memorial service of the late Sen. Bob Dole at Washington National Cathedral, where Biden delivers remarks. Then, at 1:45 p.m., the president makes closing remarks at the virtual Summit for Democracy. Finally, at 11:35 p.m., Biden appears virtually on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and health care advocates unveil the findings of the committee’s investigation into pharmaceutical pricing and business practices for widely used prescription drugs at 8:30 a.m.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris ceremonially swears in Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey at 2:30 p.m.
  • Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week’s politics with former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, former DNC Chair and ABC News Contributor Donna Brazile, former Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, and host of PBS’ Firing Line and CNN Contributor Margaret Hoover.
  • 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.