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BREAKING: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies at 84 from Covid complications

First Read: The 2016 Democratic Race's Most Combative Debate Yet

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, reacts to Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton's answer to a question during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire on Thursday in Durham, N.H. David Goldman / AP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Well, we told you there were profound differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — on their views on what it means to be a progressive/Democrat, how to create change, what the next president’s job should be — and they delivered on those differences at last night’s debate. In fact, it was the most combative two hours of the Democratic presidential race so far. And the only question we have is if we start seeing this combat now play out in the form of TV ads. Some of the sharpest exchanges from last night:

On what it means to be a progressive

CLINTON: “Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not progressive because he supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not progressive because she supports the trade pact. Even the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone would not fit this definition because he voted for DOMA... I don't think it was particularly progressive [of Sanders] to vote against the Brady Bill five times. I don't think it was progressive to vote to give gun makers and sellers immunity. I don't think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy's immigration reform.”

SANDERS: What we need to do is to stand up to the big money interests, and the campaign contributors. When we do that, we can, in fact, transform America.

On establishment vs. outsiders

CLINTON: “I'm very proud and grateful to have the support of so many elected Vermonters and former officials. Three, two former governors, a current governor, the current other senator, I really appreciate that. And I think it's because they've worked with me, they've seen what I do, they know what kind of a colleague I am, they want me as a partner in the White House, and that's exactly what I will do.”

SANDERS: “Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans, and by the way, who are not all that enamored with the establishment.”

CLINTON: “Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman President as exemplifying the establishment. And I've got to tell you that it is, it is really quite, it's really quite amusing to me.”

On "artful smear" that Clinton is a sellout to Wall Street

CLINTON: “If you've got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received. And I have stood up and I have represented by constituents to the best of my ability and I'm very proud of that. So I think it's time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks and let's talk about the issues, let's talk about the issues that divide us.”

SANDERS: “Let's talk about issues, all right? Let's talk about why in the 1990s Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided, spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think, yeah that had some influence.”

On Wall Street/business

SANDERS: “In a sense, in my view, the business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

CLINTON: “We can never let [the financial crash] happen again. We have no disagreement about this. But, I think it's a broader target list than just Wall Street, and I believe that we have to be very focused on how we try to take back the power and increase the empowerment of the American people.”

On Iraq/ISIS

SANDERS: “Let me agree with much of what the Secretary said, but where we have a different background on this issue is we differed on the war in Iraq which created barbaric organizations like ISIS…”

CLINTON: “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS. We have to look at the threats that we face right now and we have to be prepared to take them on and defeat them.”

But Clinton and Sanders ended on a positive note

Despite those clashes, though, Clinton and Sanders ended the debate on a positive note when asked if they would choose each other as their running mate. Clinton’s answer: “If I'm so fortunate as to be the nominee, the first person I would call to talk to about where we would go and how we'd get it done would be Senator Sanders.” Sanders replied, “I agree with what the Secretary said, we shouldn't be getting ahead of ourselves. And as I have said many times, you know, sometimes in these campaigns things get a little bit out of hand. I happen to respect the secretary very much, I hope it's mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.”

NBC/WSJ/Marist poll: Sanders up 20 in New Hampshire

With four days until the New Hampshire primary, where does the Democratic race stand? Well, Sanders enjoys a whopping 20-point lead in the state, according to our new NBC/WSJ/Marist poll. In that survey, Sanders gets the support of 58% of likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, while Clinton gets 38% -- essentially unchanged from a last week's NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, which showed Sanders ahead by a 57%-38% margin.

New Hampshire poll in Democratic race February 4, 2016NBC News

The UMass Lowell/News7 tracking poll has Clinton gaining a little more ground on Sanders: The Vermont senator is up by 15 points, 55%-40%, but that’s down from yesterday’s 58%-36% score. Nationally, meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll this morning has Clinton up by just two points over Sanders, 44%-42%. Now it’s only one poll, so we have to wait to see if that’s finding is matched by other national surveys. But if it is, that means Iowa changed things. But again, we’ll need to see if it’s backed up by other national polling.

NBC/WSJ/Marist poll: Trump ahead, but Rubio gains ground

Turning to the GOP race… Donald Trump continues to lead Tuesday's New Hampshire primary after his second-place finish in Iowa, but Marco Rubio has gained ground on him, according to a new NBC/WSJ/Marist poll conducted after the Iowa results. The numbers:

Last week -- before the results in Iowa, where Cruz finished first and Rubio third -- Trump was at 31%, Cruz 12%, Rubio 11%, Kasich 11%, Bush 8% and Christie 7%. Meanwhile, theUMass Lowell/News7 tracking poll has it Trump 34% (-2 from yesterday), Rubio 15% (unchanged), and Cruz 14% (unchanged).

The January jobs numbers: 151,000 jobs created, unemployment rate dips below 5%

The AP: “U.S. employers added 151,000 jobs in January, a sharp deceleration from recent months as companies shed education, transportation and temporary workers. The Labor Department said Friday that the jobs gains were still enough for the unemployment rate to fall to 4.9 percent from 5 percent. The January figures follow seasonally adjusted job growth of 262,000 in December and 280,000 in November.”

On the trail

Donald Trump holds rallies in New Hampshire at 12:30 pm ET and South Carolina at 7:00 pm ET… Hillary Clinton has an event with women senators in Manchester, NH, while Bill Clinton is in Las Vegas… Bernie Sanders also campaigns in the Granite State… Ditto Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich.

Countdown to New Hampshire: 4 days