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The 2024 gender gap grows — and not in Biden’s direction

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.
Voters Head To The Polls To Cast Their Vote In The New Hampshire Primary
Voters at Winnacunnet High School on Jan. 23, 2024, in Hampton, N.H.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Happening this Monday: NBC News poll shows President Biden trailing Donald Trump on economy, other policy issues… Senators unveil bipartisan bill to impose tougher asylum and border laws… National security adviser, on “Meet the Press,” refuses to rule out strikes inside of Iran… Biden campaigns in Nevada ahead of tomorrow’s Democratic primary there… And Nikki Haley stumps in South Carolina.

But FIRST… The gender gap is growing — and not in President Joe Biden’s direction.

In 2020, Biden won female voters by 15 points (57% to 42%), while then-President Donald Trump won men by 8 points (53% to 45%), according to the NBC News exit poll

But in our latest national NBC News poll, the gender gap has grown to 32 points: Biden is winning women by 10 (50% to 40%), and Trump is now ahead among men by a whopping 22 points (56% to 34%).

Among all registered voters, the poll finds Trump with a 5-point lead over Biden in a hypothetical general-election matchup, 47% to 42%, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

We and others have written before about the Democrats’ struggles with male voters, but this 22-point lead for Trump among men is larger than all of our combined polling for 2023 showed (Trump +13).

And check this out: Our current poll finds Trump leading Biden among men with college degrees by 11 points (51% to 40%), while Biden is ahead among women with college degrees by 26 points (59% to 33%).

That’s a 37-point gap.

The bipartisan team of pollsters who conduct the NBC News poll cautions that Trump’s lead with college-educated men runs counter to the totality of our 2023 polling, which showed Biden comfortably ahead of Trump among this demographic.

But we’ll need to watch to see if that finding continues in future polling.

Biden and Democrats already have a problem with male voters. But does that now extend to men with college degrees?

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … more than 85

That’s how many sites that the United States attacked Friday in the Middle East in response to a recent attack that killed three American soldiers in Jordan. 

The targets included sites in Syria and Iraq that have been used by Iranian-backed militants and Iranian forces operating in those countries.

“U.S. military forces struck targets at seven facilities tied to attacks on U.S. personnel in the region, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters,” per NBC’s Dan De Luce, Mosheh Gains and Daniel Arkin. “U.S. Central Command said the facilities included command and control operations, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, and drone storage sites.”

Keir Simmons, Mo Abbas and Alexander Smith report from Iraq that the strikes sent both a signal of deterrence and restraint as Biden looks to avoid a direct war with Iran.  

National security adviser Jake Sullivan demurred on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday about whether strikes inside of Iran were on the table, but he did say the U.S. intends “to take additional strikes and additional action.” 

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., followed Sullivan on “Meet the Press,” and he criticized the Biden administration, saying, “We need to make absolutely clear to Iran that nothing is off the table. You know, we maintain peace through strength.”

Eyes on November: Biden notches first official primary win

President Joe Biden won his first delegates over the weekend, winning all of South Carolina’s 55 delegates after capturing 96% of the vote in the state’s Democratic primary on Saturday, with 97% of precincts reporting, per the NBC News Decision Desk. 

Biden then traveled to Las Vegas on Sunday for a rally ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday (remember, Republicans are holding split contests — with the Thursday caucuses being the only contest to award GOP delegates).

NBC’s Mike Memoli and Katherine Koretski report from Nevada that Biden’s speech touted economic improvements, including lower inflation and the recent jobs report, and he also took aim at Trump. 

Trump “knows what’s good for America is bad for him politically,” Biden said, knocking Trump on the economy, climate, Medicare, abortion, and his reaction to the Perry, Iowa, school shooting, per Memoli and Koretski.

Later this week, Biden is expected to address House Democrats at their annual retreat, per Politico. But while Biden ramps up his campaign activity, he is once again skipping the traditional Super Bowl interview, per the New York Times. 

In other campaign news… 

GOP drama: Former President Donald Trump said Sunday “there’ll probably be some changes made” when asked about Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel during a Fox News interview. Meanwhile, RNC members at their winter meeting clashed over whether to cover legal costs for so-called fake electors in 2020, and passed a resolution to “vocally” support them, per the Washington Post.  

Trump’s conspiracy theories: During that Sunday interview, Trump also repeated some immigration conspiracy theories, per the New York Times. 

Who is Michael Haley? The New York Times delves into former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s husband, Maj. Michael Haley, who she frequently references on the campaign trail while he is deployed in Africa. 

Haley’s haul: Haley raised $16.5 million in January across all of her campaign committees as she became the sole GOP alternative to Trump, according to a press release from her campaign (the release doesn’t say how much was specifically raised into her campaign account versus others). 

Badger State ballot: Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., can remain on Wisconsin’s Democratic primary ballot, the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday. 

Speaking of Wisconsin: Democrats are “having a moment” in the Badger State, writes NBC’s Adam Edelman, who reports that Democrats there “see a golden opportunity to claw back power from the GOP, which until recently enjoyed an ironclad grip on nearly all levers of state government.”

VoteVets cash: The New York Times reports that VoteVets is planning to spend $45 million to back President Biden and other Democrats this fall, including to activate veterans and military families in battleground states. 

California love: The Los Angeles Times profiles Senate hopeful Katie Porter, and looks at how her blunt personality has won her supporters but also complicated her relationship with other politicians in the state

Next man up: Politico reports on the contentious race to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in his home district in California. 

Catch up: A Democratic group is pushing its party to make its pipeline of staffers more “robust” and “diverse” to win campaigns and govern. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Speaker Mike Johnson told colleagues over the weekend the House will also vote on a stand-alone bill to give Israel aid without spending offsets. 

Fani Willis, the Fulton County District Attorney prosecuting Trump and others over their 2020 election conduct, admitted she had a personal relationship with the special prosecutor in Trump’s case.