For the upcoming Iowa contest, pay close attention to age and ideology

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders Holds Town Hall At Motorcycle Museum In Iowa
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at a town hall at the National Motorcycle Museum on Jan. 3, 2020 in Anamosa, Iowa. Copyright Stephen Maturen Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann 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 — With 24 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, two of the most important forces at play in that contest will be age and ideology.

In 2016, according to the entrance poll, nearly two-thirds of participants in the Democratic caucuses were 45 years or older, and Hillary Clinton easily beat Bernie Sanders among that demographic.

Clinton bested Sanders by more than 40 points among those 65 or older, and by more than 20 points among those 45 to 64.

By comparison, 37 percent of participants in 2016 were 44 or younger, and Bernie Sanders cleaned house with those Iowa Democrats. He beat Clinton by 70 points among those ages 17 to 29. And the spread was more than 20 points among those 30 to 44.

So Iowa Democrats are disproportionately older. But the youngest heavily broke for Sanders over Clinton in 2016.

When it comes to ideology, more than two-thirds of Iowa Dem participants identified themselves as liberals, per the same entrance poll.

But there were two different groups of liberals: 28 percent said they were "very liberal," and Sanders won them by nearly 20 points, 58 percent to 39 percent.

Yet a larger share — 40 percent — said they were just "liberal," and Clinton narrowly beat Sanders among these voters, 50 percent to 44 percent.

An additional 28 percent described themselves as moderates, and Clinton won them by more than 20 points, 58 percent to 35 percent.

So Iowa Dems are disproportionately liberal, but only a quarter of all participants called themselves "very liberal."

Bottom line: When you're trying to game out how Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren will fare on Feb. 3, pay close attention to age and ideology.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 25 percent

25 percent.

That was the share of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers who chose frontrunner Pete Buttigieg in the LAST Des Moines Register/CNN poll, back in November.

The Register will release its next highly-anticipated survey at 5:00 pm CT /6:00 pm ET.

In November, here's how the last poll shook out:

  • Buttigieg: 25 percent
  • Warren: 16 percent
  • Biden: 15 percent
  • Sanders: 15 percent
  • Klobuchar: 6 percent
  • Booker: 3 percent
  • Gabbard: 3 percent
  • Harris: 3 percent
  • Steyer: 3 percent
  • Yang: 3 percent
  • All other candidates: Less than 3 percent

Will the Supreme Court take up "faithless electors"?

NBC's Pete Williams says the U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as today if it will take up the cases whether electors in the Electoral College can side with a DIFFERENT presidential than the one who won the popular vote in their state.

The question at hand, says Williams: Are the electors who cast the actual ballots for president and vice president required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states? Or are they free to vote as they wish?

A decision that they are free agents could give a single elector - or a small group of them - the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election, if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie or is close to one.


2020 Vision: Make that a Party of Six

Yesterday, we wrote that five Democrats had qualified for Tuesday's presidential debate in Iowa - all ahead of today's qualification deadline.

Well, make it six.

Tom Steyer, who was two polls away from qualifying, got them yesterday when Fox News polls of Nevada and South Carolina showed him in double digits in both states, per NBC's Ben Kamisar.

So the six Dems who have qualified for Tuesday's debate: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer.

As for those Fox polls, the results in Nevada: Biden 23 percent, Sanders 17 percent, Steyer 12 percent, Warren 12 percent, Buttigieg 6 percent and Yang 4 percent.


The Fox results from South Carolina: Biden 36 percent, Steyer 15 percent, Sanders 14 percent, Warren 10 percent, Buttigieg 4 percent.

By the way, if you want to know why/how Steyer jumped into double digits in Nevada and South Carolina, check out these ad-spending stats as of today in both states, from Advertising Analytics.


  • Steyer: $10.4 million
  • Trump: $859,000
  • Sanders: $147,000
  • Buttigieg: $83,000

South Carolina

  • Steyer: $14.1 million
  • Buttigieg: $1 million
  • Bloomberg: $829,000
  • Trump: $549,000

Bottom line: Steyer has owned the airwaves in both states. NBC's Andrea Mitchell will interview Steyer on MSNBC in the noon ET hour on "Andrea Mitchell Reports."


On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden stumps in Nevada… Bernie Sanders hits Iowa, where he holds town halls in Perry and Nevada… Amy Klobuchar and John Delaney also are in the Hawkeye State… Elizabeth Warren, in New Hampshire, has town halls in Dover and Milford… Andrew Yang and Deval Patrick are also in the Granite State… … Pete Buttigieg campaigns in California… And Michael Bloomberg travels to Georgia and Tennessee.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

Steyer discussed those Fox poll results with NBC's Julia Jester in New Hampshire yesterday. "I am someone who is talking explicitly about race. I am for reparations. I talk a lot about immigration I have a long history of supporting immigrants. Of spending money to make sure that undocumented people get fair representation. And I have a long history of standing up for what's right and to stand against racial prejudice. And I've called it out repeatedly with regards to immigration. I've talked a lot about the need for an explicit formal commission on race to retell the story of the United States over 400 years with on a solution basis. So I don't know why people are supporting me, but I have a message that appeals to every American as far as I'm concerned."

Cory Booker's event in Iowa was disrupted by a group of activists who said they were from Jewish Voice for Peace Action, a Palestinian rights group. NBC's Ben Pu reports, "Students asked Booker a variety of questions that related to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement, including asking him to commit as president to divert foreign aid away from Israel's military and on President Trump's latest executive action meant to strengthen protections against anti-Semitism on college campuses. Booker calmly addressed the students but was repeatedly shouted at by the activists."

Tweet of the day

Shameless plug

Don't miss this week's Chuck ToddCast, which included a deep dive into how impeachment could affect the 2020 Senate stakes.

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