For Iowa Democrats, winning trumps ideology

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.
Image: Pete Buttigieg
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during a house party on June 7, 2019, in Winterset, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — With eight months left until the Iowa caucuses, we care a lot more about what Iowa Democrats want — rather than the state of the horserace.

Especially before the first debates even take place later this month.

So here’s what caught our eye in the Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa poll that was released over the weekend:

  1. Beating Trump is more important than ideology: Two-thirds of likely Democratic caucus-goers say it’s more important to them that the Iowa winner has a strong chance of beating Trump, while just a third say it’s more important that the winner shares their position on key issues.
  2. Iowa Dems are divided on impeachment: Forty-two percent of likely caucus-goers who plan to participate in person believe House Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump ASAP. That’s compared with 48 percent who want them to focus on investigations – but not move forward with impeachment.
  3. The most popular candidates when it comes to the fav/unfav numbers among in-person caucus-goers: Elizabeth Warren (+54), Kamala Harris (+50), Pete Buttigieg (+49), Joe Biden (+48), Bernie Sanders (+45), Cory Booker (+36) and Beto O’Rourke (+33).
  4. The least popular candidates: Tulsi Gabbard and Tim Ryan (+2), Seth Moulton (+1) and Bill de Blasio (-26).

As for the horserace in poll, Biden leads the pack at 24 percent – followed by Sanders at 16 percent, Warren at 15 percent and Buttigieg at 14 percent.

But we have almost an eternity to go until February 2020…

That’s a lot of cattle

Speaking of Iowa, a whopping 19 Democratic candidates (!!!) spoke at cattle call in Cedar Rapids on Sunday.

Some of the highlights, per NBC’s team on the ground there:

Sanders: “I understand that there are some well-intentioned Democrats and candidates who believe that the best way forward is a ‘middle ground’ strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing. In my view, that approach is not just bad public policy, but it is a failed political strategy that I fear could end up with the reelection of Donald Trump. The American people want change, real change, and we have got to provide that change.”

Warren: “I've done 90 plus town halls. I've taken literally thousands of questions. I've been to 20 states and Puerto Rico and we're coming up on our 30,000th selfie. That is how you build a grassroots movement. Because here's why. Why do I have the time to do that? Because I'm not spending my time with high-dollar donors and with corporate lobbyists. I'm spending my time with you. That's how we build a grassroots movement in America.”

Buttigieg: “Now, we've got a lot of work to do to vindicate our values, to establish a new democracy where money can't outvote people and politicians can't choose their voters by drawing districts the way they look. A democracy where all citizens, including those of D.C. And Puerto Rico enjoy proper political representation in our capital. And maybe in this greatest democracy in the world we might go about choosing our president by giving it to the person who got the most votes.”

Harris: “And, Iowa, I'm going to tell you there's a rap sheet full of evidence to make the case [against Trump]. Let's look at what happened. He promised health care and then he tried to rip health care away from millions of people. What's that called? Health care fraud. He said he was for working people, then he passed a tax bill benefitting the 1% and biggest corporations of this country. That's tax fraud. He believes the president of Russia and a northern Korean dictator, and then he claims to be the best president we've seen in a generation. I'd say let's call Barack Obama because that's identity fraud.”

Tweet of the day

“Nobody move … or the United States gets it”

Did anyone else think of the scene from “Blazing Saddles” — when Sheriff Bart takes himself hostage to get out of a sticky situation – after reading this on Trump’s tariff/immigration deal with Mexico?

“The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months,” the New York Times reported over the weekend.

More: “Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March.”

And: “The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged.”

Not surprisingly, Trump has taken issue with the New York Times report, tweeting: “Another false report in the Failing @nytimes. We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them, or get them in full, until our signed agreement with Mexico.”

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2020 Vision: Focusing on New Hampshire

After a weekend when Iowa dominated the political world’s attention, New Hampshire comes into focus this week, NBC’s Amanda Golden and Julia Jester report.

Seven Democratic contenders make their way to the Granite State this week: Amy Klobuchar and Seth Moulton on Monday; Tim Ryan on Tuesday; Jay Inslee on Wednesday; Andrew Yang starting on Thursday; and Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday.

These candidates will make their pitches to New Hampshire voters at events like political forums, house parties, meet and greets, and fundraisers. Today, Klobuchar is set to have a voting rights conversation with young Democrats, and Moulton will be the first to make his case to employees at the largest electric utility company in the state.

And on Friday, actress Connie Britton joins Kirsten Gillibrand for a fundraiser for young Democrats (clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose).

On the campaign trail today

Amy Klobuchar stumps in New Hampshire, hitting Manchester for a Politics & Eggs event, Concord and Somersworth… Seth Moulton also is in the Granite State… And Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Steve Bullock all remain in Iowa.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 24

Twenty-four.

That's the number of immigrants who have died in ICE custody during the Trump administration, according to a new NBC News review

At least four others have died shortly after being released.

And that total doesn't include the deaths of other migrants, including five children, who have died while being held by other federal entities.

The Lid: Carolina in my mind

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at how important of a state North Carolina will be in 2020.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Alex Seitz-Wald checks in on why the 2020 candidates are spending so much time on... selfies?

Democratic leaders are shifting towards a legislative strategy to address election interference rather than an impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post has more details on lavish spending by the NRA.

The California legislature has agreed to extend some health benefits to people who are in the country illegally.

And on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” last night, Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., admitted he’s yet to read the Mueller report.

Trump agenda: Spiking the football

Trump is declaring victory on a new agreement with Mexico. But what will it actually do?

The New York Times asks: What is William Barr up to?

POLITICO reports on how Elaine Chao helped fast-track some of Mitch McConnell's top priorities.

2020: Policy matters

Is Elizabeth Warren's focus on policy finally paying off?

What's the goal for every Democratic candidate in Iowa not named Joe Biden? Become the anti-Biden.

Latino leaders aren't happy with the Democratic Party's outreach to the community so far.

How are 2020 candidates balancing their campaign travel and their day jobs?

Progressives who want to oust more centrist Democrats are trying to figure out their strategy.

Kamala Harris is hoping to highlight her prosecutor past.

Beto O'Rourke says he's not fazed by his dwindling poll numbers.

And Walter Shapiro writes that O’Rourke is more of a serious contender than those poll numbers might suggest.