Two different contests are defining the Democratic presidential race

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Rainbow PUSH broadcast and community forum in Chicago, June 29, 2019. Copyright Kamil Krzaczynski Reuters
Copyright Kamil Krzaczynski Reuters
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Ben Kamisar with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Maybe the biggest takeaway from the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll - which shows Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren topping the 2020 Dem race — is how there are two different Democratic primary contests taking place right now.

There's the primary between candidates and Dem voters who want big, bold change.

And there's the primary between those who simply want to defeat Trump.

Fifty-four percent of Democratic primary voters say they prefer a nominee who proposes larger-scale policies that might cost more and be harder to pass — but could still result in major change.

Among these voters, Warren leads the pack (at 29 percent), and she's followed by Bernie Sanders (18 percent), Biden (16 percent) and Kamala Harris (14 percent).

By contrast, 41 percent of Dem primary voters say they want a nominee who pushes for smaller-scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass — but that bring less change.

And among these voters, Biden holds a substantial lead (at 35 percent), followed by Harris (14 percent, Warren (8 percent), Pete Buttigieg (8 percent) and Sanders (7 percent).

Similarly, Democratic primary voters are divided on what's more important to them — a candidate who comes closest to their views on issues, or one who has the best chance to defeat President Donald Trump.

Fifty-one percent say issues are more important, and those voters break for Biden (18 percent), Warren (18 percent), Sanders (17 percent) and Harris (11 percent).

That's compared with 45 percent who believe defeating Trump is more important, and they break Biden (at 34 percent), Warren (21 percent), Harris (16 percent), Buttigieg (8 percent) and Sanders (6 percent).

Bottom line: The big-change Democratic voters outnumber the small-change ones. But you can see a situation how Warren and Sanders could split the former group, and how Biden might lap the field with the latter.

That's Biden's path to victory, even in Iowa — if his candidacy holds up.

The four candidate tiers in our NBC/WSJ poll

As for the overall horserace in our poll, you can divide it into four categories.

The Top 5: Biden (26 percent), Warren (19 percent), Harris (13 percent), Sanders (13 percent) and Buttigieg (7 percent).

The 2 Percenters (the threshold to make the September debates): Andrew Yang (2 percent), Beto O'Rourke (2 percent).

The 1 Percenters: Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Jay Inslee, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.

The less-than-1-percenters: Everyone else.

The good news for Booker, Klobuchar, Castro and even O'Rourke is that they get Democratic voters in our poll to say want to learn more about these candidates.


But that bad news for those in the 1 percent and below is that it looks like this field is going to winnow fast.

And it's not like these candidates have NOT had moments and exposure…

Trump loses and declares victory anyway (again)

Much like he did with the government shutdown and the 2018 midterm results, President Trump lost his citizenship/census battle — but declared victory anyway.

"President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is backing off his effort to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census and is instead issuing an executive order directing departments and agencies to better share data related to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country," per NBC News.

By the way, using existing databases is what the U.S. Census Bureau said Trump could have done without putting the citizenship question on the census, as NPR's Domenico Montanaro notes.


The question we have: Who convinced Trump this was a dead end?

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Candidates of the corn

On Sunday, 12 Democratic presidential candidates will speak at Progress Iowa's Corn Feed event in Cedar Rapids, per NBC's Maura Barrett and Priscilla Thompson. (An Iowa summer wouldn't be complete without presidential candidates and corn, right?)

The 12: Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson.

During the cattle call, candidates will be given ten-minutes on stage to address the crowd; the time-limit will be strictly enforced.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke are all in New Hampshire… Kirsten Gillibrand continues her "Broken Promises Tour," making three stops in Michigan… Cory Booker, in Boston, holds a press conference on preventing gun violence… And John Hickenlooper stumps in Iowa.


Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Four candidates spoke at the League of United Latin American Citizens presidential forum in Milwaukee yesterday, and NBC's Gary Grumbach and Micki Fahner have the highlights:

Julián Castro: [On his immigration plan] "One of the things that distinguishes what I put forward versus some of the critics, I'm actually talking about solving this challenge. I said we need to do a 21st century Marshall plan for Central America to partner with those countries so people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States and that's a long-term way to solve this challenge."

Elizabeth Warren: Some of the loudest applause for Elizabeth Warren came when a question about the US Women's National Soccer Team was posed. "When women produce then by golly women ought to be paid for it. Come on," Warren said.

Question to Bernie Sanders: "You've called it ageism in the Democratic Party, some of the younger candidates asked you to pass the torch how do you view this generational change in the Democratic Party?"

Sanders: "I think we need a lot of change in this country to tell you the truth. But when you look at a candidate, age is a factor, experience as a factor in the candidates, record as a factor and most importantly what that candidate stands for is a factor."


Beto O'Rourke: The former Texas Representative was asked about the deportations and ICE Raids allegedly planned for later this weekend, saying that they make us a "less safe" country. "When immigrant communities fear local law enforcement, fear federal law enforcement, they are less likely to report crimes, to testify in trials, to serve as witnesses, they're no longer participating in the civic life of our communities and we are less safe as a result," he said.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 35 percent

35 percent.

That's Joe Biden's share of the vote in a new Fox News poll of South Carolina.

Biden holds a big lead over the field, more support than the next four candidates sitting behind him combined (Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker).

The Palmetto State is an important state for the former vice president, one where he's cultivated strong relationships over the years. Biden is acutely aware of that reality—last week, he chose the state as the backdrop for his apology for his comments about working with segregationist senators.


And so far, it doesn't look like the flap over those comments (or the attacks on his opposition to federally-mandated busing) has hurt his standing with black voters there. The Fox poll shows Biden pulling in 41 percent of the black vote in South Carolina.

The Lid: Numbers, numbers, numbers

Don't miss yesterday's pod, where we ran down the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll for all you auditory learners.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

NBC's Monica Alba and Ben Collins have an inside look at the White House social media summit, which included appearances by some conspiracy theorists and controversial social media figures.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's done talking about the rift with progressive freshmen Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Does Bernie Sanders need to adjust his strategy as he slips in the polls?


Trump rips Paul Ryan as 'lame duck failure' with 'poor leadership.'

Trump agenda: Census retreat

President Trump dropped his effort to add a citizenship question to the Census.

The House Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for a handful of Trump officials.

House Democrats want a briefingon Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's role in securing a plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein in 2007.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are passing the buck over the government's treatment of migrant children


2020: Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

Julián Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourkeall spoke about Hispanic issues in Milwaukee Thursday.

The records Joe Biden donated to the University of Delaware won't be unsealed until after he leaves public life.

The Federal Election Commission will allow a security company to provide campaigns with anti-phishing services amid the worries about election interference.

Politico sits down for a one-on-one with Seth Moulton.

Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby says President Trump is opposed to Jeff Sessionsrunning for Senate again.

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