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Here are the rules of the road for the Iowa caucuses

Image: Supporters listen as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabet
Supporters listen as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a town hall event at a school on Jan. 19, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Copyright Spencer Platt Getty Images
Copyright Spencer Platt 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 — The most important number to remember for the Iowa caucuses that take place two weeks from today is 15 percent.

That's the minimum level of support that the Democratic candidates must get to achieve viability at most caucus sites — so candidates who get LESS than 15 percent must realign to a different viable candidate, or join with other non-viable groups to get to 15 percent or above.

Bottom line: If you're a candidate that can't sniff 15 percent, you're really not a player on Feb. 3.

The second-most important number to remember is three.

That's the number of different results the Iowa Democratic Party will be releasing on Caucus Night — all at the same time. (This is a change from previous caucuses, when there was only one result.)

Result 1: First Expression of Preference. This is the tally before the realignment takes place for candidates who don't reach the 15 percent threshold.

Result 2: Final Expression of Preference. This is the tally after the realignment.

Result 3: State Delegate Equivalents. This is the ratio of state-to-county convention delegates determined by the final expression of preference at each of Iowa's 1,679 precinct (or caucus) sites. Importantly, this is the number used to determine the "winner" in past Iowa caucus results.

Because of these three different numbers that will be released — all to make the caucus system more transparent — it's possible that two or three different candidates might claim victory on caucus night.

It's conceivable, say, that Bernie Sanders could come out on top of "first expression of preference," due to his diehard supporters.

But it's also possible that Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg could get the most "final expression" and "State Delegate Equivalents" — due to what happens after the realignment.

So who's the ultimate winner of Iowa? As in past cycles, it's all about those State Delegate Equivalents.

Yet because you're going to see three different sets of results, we're trying to help explain what all three numbers will mean.

Trump will be forced to take a back seat during his impeachment trial

The impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump begins tomorrow.

And NBC's Shannon Pettypiece writes that he's being forced into an unusual position in the trial.


Taking a back seat.

"[A]s the trial begins in earnest on Tuesday, Trump will be handing over the reins for one of the most crucial moments of his presidency to a team of his staunchest cable TV legal defenders, including former independent counsel Ken Starr, the famed defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi."

Data Download: The number of the day is … 16,241


That's the number of false or misleading claims that President Trump has made in his three years as president since taking his oath of office, according to the count from the Washington Post's fact-checkers.


"In 2017, Trump made 1,999 false or misleading claims. In 2018, he added 5,689 more, for a total of 7,688. And in 2019, he made 8,155 suspect claims," the Post writes.

"In other words, in a single year, the president doubled the total number of false or misleading claims he had made in the previous two years combined."

2020 Vision: Biden camp warns about disinformation during impeachment trial

NBC's Heidi Przbyla and Mike Memoli report on a new memo from the Biden campaign, which warns the political news media about the disinformation pushed by President Trump and his supporters in the Ukraine scandal.

"Trump has been 'spreading a malicious and conclusively debunked conspiracy theory' that 'Biden engaged in wrongdoing when he executed official United States policy to remove a corrupt prosecutor from office,' the campaign said in the memo sent by Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, and a senior adviser, Tony Blinken.


"Current and former administration officials testified during the House impeachment investigation that while Hunter Biden's role on the board of Burisma presented the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest given his father's position, Shokin's ouster was a key priority of the Obama administration and the international community."

"In its first forceful pushback since impeachment proceedings began, the Biden campaign is demanding that 'any media organization referencing, reporting on, or repeating these claims' from Trump and his allies 'must state clearly and unambiguously that they have been discredited and debunked by authoritative sources.'"

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer attend an NAACP MLK Day celebration and march in Columbia, S.C… Michael Bloomberg attends an MLK Day parade in Little Rock, Ark… Later in the day, many of the major Dems attend the Iowa Brown & Black presidential forum in Des Moines, Iowa… Buttigieg holds a town hall with Rep. Dave Loebsack in Pella, Iowa… Sanders, also in the Hawkeye State, holds a rally with Pramila Jayapal… And Warren holds a community conversation in Grimes, Iowa.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

NBC's Ben Pu reports on the candidate highlights at the We The People 2020 forum in Iowa, where Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Andrew Yang and John Delaney spoke.


Warren came out swinging immediately against Michael Bloomberg, hitting him hard on his ad spending and accusing him of trying to "drown out every other voice in this Democratic primary." She also hit him about him getting a delay for his FEC documents on financial disclosures, suggesting that he could have "entanglements with China, serious conflicts, interest in other parts of the world or other corporations."

Buttigieg at one point deadpanned that some Supreme Court justices time their departure from the court based on who is president, and also some "time their departure from the Earth based on who's president." Buttigieg also took some flak about his fundraisers, but again pivoted to needing to build a war chest to beat Trump.

At one point, Klobuchar advocated for automatic voter registration as soon as children hit 18 years old, joking that "Target can find a pair of shoes in Hawaii with a SKU number, so I don't understand why in this great country, we can't simply give kids a registration number when they turn 18?"

Tweet of the day

The Lid: What the hack?

Don't miss the pod from Friday, when we tried to make sense of Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., telling a reporter that he's a "liberal hack" for asking a question about the impeachment trial.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Richmond residents are bracing for violence at a gun rights demonstration today.

The Democratic candidates are getting feisty with two weeks to go until Iowa.

Biden suggests Sanders and Warren wouldn't play well in the South.

Confusion over a new law could threaten voter turnout in New Hampshire.


Alan Dershowitz is distancing himself from the latest impeachment brief from the White House, saying he didn't even see it until after it was filed.

Trump Agenda: Baggage

Ken Starr still has plenty of baggage from his ouster at Baylor University.

Could Rudy Giuliani still join Trump's defense team?

The top White House official in charge of Russia has been put on indefinite leave pending an investigation.


The Washington Post notes that the impeachment proceedings will test Trump's relationship with Mitch McConnell.

How did Lev Parnas end up in Trump's orbit to begin with?

2020: The Two Corys

The New York Times asks: Where is Cory Gardner?

Will Cory Booker make an endorsement now that he's out of the race?


Andrew Yang says the United States is "deeply misogynist."

Black voters don't always have faith in the candidates to deliver on policy, the New York Times writes, because they may not trust the government to help them at all.

Mike Bloomberg is talking about white privilege.

Democrats are looking for new voters in unconventional places in Iowa.

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