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The takeaway from Iowa: Buttigieg, Sanders won their respective ideological lanes

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg greets supporters on Feb. 4, 2020 in Concord, N.H. 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 — Now that there are finally results to count from Iowa after the App-ocalypse that rocked the Hawkeye State, the biggest takeaway is how Pete Buttigieg emerged as the winner from the Democrats' moderate/pragmatic lane, easily besting Joe Biden.

And how Bernie Sanders walked away from Iowa owning the liberal lane.

Looking at the entrance poll, Buttigieg tied Biden among moderates, who made up 30 percent of all caucus-goers, with Amy Klobuchar coming in right behind them.

But what made Buttigieg's showing so strong is that he also carried the "somewhat liberals" in Iowa — who made up a great share, 42 percent — followed by Sanders, Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

As for Sanders, he dominated the "very liberals" of Iowa — 25 percent of all caucus-goers — beating Warren by nearly a 2-to-1 margin among these folks.

And here's what's interesting: When you add up the Sanders/Warren/Andrew Yang initial preference (with 71 percent of the results in), you get 48.3 percent.

Yet when you add up Buttigieg/Biden/Klobuchar, you get 48.8 percent.

And that's for the Iowa caucuses, which is a much more liberal (and white) electorate than you'll get in most Democratic primary contests.

So, overall, the moderate/pragmatic lane is numerically superior — even in Iowa (though barely).

The question is whether one side consolidates their lane around a single candidate faster than the other side.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 4 percent

Just four percent.

That's the share of Iowa Democratic voters under 45 who supported Joe Biden in Monday's caucuses, according to entrance polls.

That's compared with 41 percent of those younger voters who backed Bernie Sanders and 21 percent who backed Pete Buttigieg.

Biden won support from 25 percent of those over 45.

Let's not "both sides" last night

Yes, President Trump refused to shake House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hand at last night's State of the Union.


And Pelosi returned the favor by ripping up Trump's speech afterward.

But let's also not equate the two snubs — or the two overall performances last night.

Not only did Trump refuse to shake the hand of the leader who invited him to deliver last night's address, he tried to belittle his predecessor; he told big lies ("We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions"); and he cheapened - if not debased - the honor of the government recognizing the achievement of an American individual. (Ask yourself: Has that individual worked to bring the country together? Or only to divide it?)

One of Trump's greatest strengths is his ability to act however he wants — with that behavior normalized.


Yet when anyone else stoops to his level, that behavior gets equally criticized.

But let's not "both sides" last night.

Tweet of the day

Impeachment trial update: This is the end, my only friend, the end

The final votes on whether to convict or acquit President Donald J. Trump in his impeachment trial take place at 4:00 p.m. ET, per NBC's Kasie Hunt and NBC's Capitol Hill team. (Trump is all but assured of being acquitted.)

Today's vote comes after a bitterly divided Congress sat for the president's State of the Union last night — with the impeachment managers lined up in a row and the lawyers prosecuting the case sitting in the chamber, too.


We're watching key Democrats to see how they vote: Sens. Joe Manchin, Doug Jones, Kyrsten Sinema. We have half an eye on Mitt Romney.

2020 Vision: The ad-buy shuffle

NBC's Ben Kamisar takes a look at the changes in ad spending after Iowa, according to data from the media-monitoring firm Advertising Analytics:

  • Elizabeth Warren cut $375,00 in television ad dollars from Nevada and South Carolina on Tuesday.
  • Amy Klobuchar added $433,000 in TV spending to markets that cover New Hampshire.
  • Andrew Yang placed $280,000 in New Hampshire-area markets.
  • Joe Biden cut $58,000 in Nevada TV ads and placed $90,000 in New Hampshire-area TV ads.
  • Michael Bloomberg added almost $400,000 in TV ads as his campaign foreshadowed a large up-tick in TV spending by the billionaire that's already launched a historic ad blitzkrieg.
  • Pete Buttigieg placed $121,000 in New Hampshire-area television ads.
  • Tom Steyer dropped $212,400 onto the airwaves in the New Hampshire area.

On the campaign trail today

We're six days away from the New Hampshire primary: Elizabeth Warren stumps in Nashua… Bernie Sanders holds a town hall in Derry… Joe Biden travels to Somersworth… Andrew Yang is in Milford… And Tulsi Gabbard campaigns in Keene… And beginning at 8:00 pm ET, Warren, Biden, Yang and Tom Steyer participate in CNN town halls from Manchester… Elsewhere, Michael Bloomberg makes a stop in Rhode Island.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

For the past several weeks, the tension between Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg has been heating up - and after Buttigieg claimed victory after the Iowa caucuses, Klobuchar didn't lett up in New Hampshire yesterday. "He has raised money and that is true. But at some point, when you look at the big money that's going on from some of these candidates, people are going to be tuning in, they're going to be watching the debates, they're going to be getting to know the candidates, and whenever people get to know me I do well," Klobuchar said at an event in Nashua, N.H., per NBC's Amanda Golden.


Joe Biden tried to downplay his disappointing finish in Iowa, by changing the conversation to the all four of the early state contests, NBC's Marianna Sotomayor reports: "Former Vice President Joe Biden elaborated on how he feels about possibly placing fourth in the Iowa caucuses, downplaying the loss by pointing out that there are three early primaries ahead that he could still win. 'Look, as I said from the beginning, I want to do well in Iowa. The point is, I count to four. The first four are the key. Two caucuses and two primaries. And so we'll see,' he said."

The Lid

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we reported from Des Moines about how foes of the Iowa Caucus are licking their chops about how 2020 might have been the final contest of its kind.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Miss the State of the Union? Here are the moments that made it.

In the Democratic response to the SOTU, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer focused on health care — and brought up impeachment.


David Wasserman notes that the Iowa Caucus results debacle was a real favor to a flagging Biden.

The caucus chaos and Trump's renewed confidence have Democrats worried anew about his re-election.

NBC's Melissa Holzberg spoke with Democratic officials in New Hampshire about their turn in the spotlight.

South Carolina Republicans are hoping to boost Bernie Sanders in the state's open primary.


Sen. Susan Collins made it official — she'll vote to acquit Trump.

Trump Agenda: The "strangest State of the Union ever"

POLITICO calls it "the strangest State of the Union ever."

The president repeated many of his often fact-checked statements last night.

2020: Rocket Man

Biden is asking supporters in New Hampshire to send him "like a rocket" with their votes.


Disinformation about the Iowa caucus results serves as a warning for the rest of 2020.

Nevada Democrats won't use the app that crashed for Iowa Democrats.

Bloombergsays there's "no question" that Trump is worried about him.

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