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 — Yes, Bernie Sanders could very well end up being the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination — if he wins New Hampshire and Nevada.
And especially if Pete Buttigieg/Joe Biden/Michael Bloomberg split up the vote in the party's moderate lane beginning on Super Tuesday.
But now that the dust — or more accurately, all the mess — has settled after Iowa, it becomes clear that Sanders only had an "ok" night in the Hawkeye State.
He might have met expectations, but he certainly didn't exceed them. Turnout was lower than expected. And the entrance poll showed him with limited crossover appeal outside of his young, very liberal base.
Sanders got just 8 percent support from Iowa caucus-goers 45 and older. And among seniors 65-plus, it was just 4 percent.
While he overperformed among "very liberal" Iowa Dems (43 percent), he underperformed among "somewhat liberals" (19 percent) and moderates (12 percent).
He got just 12 percent support from white women college graduates — arguably the heart of the Dem resistance against Trump.
And maybe most concerning of all for Sanders, he won more than half of the Iowa caucus-goers who said they supported him in 2016. But he barely registered (7 percent) among the 54 percent of all Iowa caucus-goers who said they backed Hillary Clinton four years ago.
So his base — right now — is about half of the Democrats who supported him in 2016.
But few else.
(He did overperform with the sliver of non-white Democrats in Iowa, but it's unclear if that translates outside of the Hawkeye State.)
So if he's really going to be the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination, he's got to win convincingly in New Hampshire.
Remember, this is a state he carried with 61 percent of the vote in 2016.
Kneel before Trump
One day later, so much stands out from President Trump's remarks at the White House after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial.
His vulgar curse word.
Calling Democrats and opponents "horrible" and "evil."
The attack on Mitt Romney.
But maybe the biggest takeaway from the event is how Trump and Republican lawmakers made it clear that the GOP is Trump's party — and how members of Congress are subservient to him.
One by one, he recognized Republican senators and representatives — not for being impartial jurors, but for defending him and protecting him.
"Mitch McConnell, I want to tell you: You did a fantastic job [in the impeachment trial]."
"A man [Sen. Chuck Grassley] who got James Comey to choke, and he was just talking in his regular voice... Chuck Grassley is an incredible guy."
"You were unbelievable. You were tough. And you are something. And one of the greatest supporters on the impeachment hoax was [Sen.] Josh Hawley."
"A young woman who I didn't know at all, but she's been so supportive — and I've had great support from other people in that state. And she's been so supportive, and she's been downright nasty and mean about the unfairness to the President. And [Sen.] Kelly Loeffler, I appreciate very much."
Data Download: The number of the day is … 6
That's the number of times before yesterday that the word "bulls****" appeared in the 132,480 records in the American Presidency Project's White House archives. Of those six utterances, two were from musical artists (songwriter Diane Warren and rapper Kanye West.) The remaining four were said by Trump.
2020 Vision: It's debate night in New Hampshire
At 8:00 p.m. ET, seven of the Democratic presidential candidates participate in the ABC/WMUR debate from New Hampshire — the eighth round of Dem debates this season.
Those seven candidates: Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
The debate comes as a new Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk poll shows Bernie Sanders at 24 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 23 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 13 percent and Joe Biden at 11 percent. No other candidate is in double digits.
More from the poll: "Biden … dropped from 18 percent in Monday's New Hampshire poll to 15 percent on Tuesday, and then 12 percent on Wednesday, before dropping Thursday to 11 percent," the Boston Globe writes.
On the flip side, "Buttigieg … saw a remarkable jump from the 11 percent he scored in Monday's New Hampshire poll, catapulting him past Warren and Biden, nearly into first place."
Meanwhile, a Monmouth poll released Thursday shows these numbers: Sanders 24 percent, Buttigieg 20 percent, Biden 17 percent, Warren 13 percent, Klobuchar 9 percent.
On the campaign trail today
In addition to tonight's Dem debate at 8:00 pm ET, Sanders participates in the Politics & Eggs event in Manchester… Tulsi Gabbard holds a town hall in Somersworth… Deval Patrick hits Concord and Manchester… And Republican Bill Weld is in New London… Outside of New Hampshire, Michael Bloomberg campaigns in Virginia.
Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds
Pete Buttigieg received an endorsement Thursday from a swing-state Democrat, N.J - Rep. Andy Kim, per NBC's Priscilla Thompson. "'I used to work at the White House," Kim told NBC News. "I spent a lot of time in the Situation Room, a lot of time in the oval office on tough issues.' Kim says he has seen first-hand the challenges a President Buttigieg might face, but that the candidate has been tested in hard times,' and has a strong moral compass that would serve him well in the White House."
And New Hampshire officials are trying to assuage concerns that their primary will not have any reporting errors, or delayed reporting - and yes, that's throwing some shade over at Iowa, NBC's Julia Jester and Amanda Golden report: "NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley expressed full confidence in the NH primary, 'We've had 100 years without an issue,' Buckley said. 'We have 100 percent confidence our local election officials along with our state officials will make sure everything runs perfectly.' Plus, there will be an election day hotline with a team of attorneys ready to respond to issues, and every town will be visited by a polling place inspector from the DOJ."
Tweet of the day
The Lid: How they did it
Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a breath and tried to figure out what we can learn about Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders from their Iowa success.
New ToddCast! Don't missthe latest Chuck Toddcastfrom this week. Jonathan Martin and Eugene Scott talk about everything 2020 and how the App-ocalypse hit Democratic primary season.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss
The Iowa cataclysm: "NBC News review of Iowa caucus vote finds potential errors, inconsistencies."
The president is preparing to reassign Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman as he plans payback for his impeachment foes.
Where was Joe Biden yesterday? Holed up with advisers trying to figure out how to save his presidential bid.
Half a dozen women of color on Elizabeth Warren's Nevada team have left amid complaints of a toxic work environment.
Bloomberg is taking heat for referring to "some man wearing a dress" during a conversation about trans rights.
Trump's former secretary of the Navy will endorse Michael Bloomberg.
Trump Agenda: My man, Mitch
The New York Times reports on how Mitch McConnell delivered an acquittal for Trump.
Mitt Romney is bracing for "unimaginable" consequences for his impeachment vote.
Al-Qaida leader Qassim al-Rimi has been killed in a U.S. operation, the White House announced.
Bloomberg is plugging his plan to address inequality in a New York Times op-ed.
Rarely-visited parts of California are getting a lot more attention in advance of Super Tuesday.
Dozens of Yang staffers are on the chopping block.
Hmmmmmm.. Steve Bullock met privately with Barack Obama (the Senate filing deadline is March 9.)
Pete Buttigieg responded to an Iowa woman's rescinding of her support for him when she found out he's gay.