- A little over three months out from the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign appears to be in crisis mode in the first two early-voting states.
- Biden’s polling numbers have significantly faltered in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he trails his progressive rivals in support and fundraising.
- As of 2019’s third fundraising quarter, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg reported $25.7 million and $23 million in cash on hand, respectively, compared with just $8.9 million for Biden, allowing them to invest more in their ground games than the Biden campaign.
- Biden’s collapse in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states where Warren and Sanders have consistently led in early polling, especially highlights the risk of Biden’s electability-based strategy.
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A little over three months out from the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign appears to be verging on the edge of crisis mode in the first two early-voting states.
Biden entered the race as the presumptive frontrunner but has seen that perception crumble in recent months, as his polling numbers have significantly faltered in Iowa and New Hampshire and he trails his progressive rivals in support and fundraising.
Real Clear Politics’ polling average shows Warren leading in all recent Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic primary surveys. A New York Times/Siena College poll of Iowa released November 1 showed a close contest with Biden in fourth place at 17% behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 22%, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 19%, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 18% with a margin of error of +/- 4.7%.
In New Hampshire, a recent University of New Hampshire/CNN poll conducted October 21-27 with a margin of error of +/- 4.1% points found Sanders at 21%, Warren at 18%, and Biden in third place at 15% — a dramatic drop of nine percentage points compared to the July UNH/CNN poll, where Biden was at 24%.
—Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) November 1, 2019
A new report in Bloomberg further revealed the weaknesses of Biden’s ground operation in Iowa, where he is able to invest fewer resources compared to his rivals. As of 2019’s third fundraising quarter, Warren and Buttigieg reported $25.7 and $23 million in cash on hand, respectively, compared to just $8.9 million for Biden.
Bloomberg found that aside from Biden’s money issues, his state director doesn’t live in the state full-time, and Iowa Democrats said Biden himself has admitted his campaign’s ground game have been lacking in the state. Also, he’s losing the support of key allies and donors alike, including the support of a state senator who had previously endorsed him.
Recently, The New York Times reported that Buttigieg — one of the most impressive fundraisers of the 2020 Democratic primary — “has won over many former Obama-era ambassadors as a 37-year-old fresh face for the party.”
Bradley Tusk, a former campaign manager for Michael Bloomberg who recently hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg, told The Times that in attendance were “a lot of those people you would have thought would be Biden people. And they weren’t,” adding, “the feeling in the room … was that Biden has already lost.”
For months, Biden and his campaign have argued that, among other reasons, Biden is the best potential Democratic nominee because he is best-suited to defeat President Donald Trump in a general election.
Biden’s collapse in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states where Warren and Sanders have consistently lead in early primary polls, especially highlights the risk of Biden’s electability-based strategy.
Biden’s messaging is working to solidify his lead among two groups who, in surveys, value beating Trump above all else — older voters and African-American voters, particularly those without a college degree.
If Biden’s main argument is that he is adept at winning elections, a third or even fourth-place finish in Iowa, New Hampshire, or both could seriously damage his standing going forward before he could make up ground by Super Tuesday.
Of course, 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton went on to secure the nomination after winning Iowa by less than half a percentage point and losing the New Hampshire primary to Sanders. Clinton also won huge victories in Southern states with big African-American populations.
But unlike Biden, Clinton was competing in what was essentially just a two-way primary, and she had far more cash on hand and sustainable fundraising. Additionally, she won delegate-rich states, including California and New York, which are not guaranteed wins for Biden.
The pragmatism and emphasis on electability that older and African-American voters have expressed in surveys has been working in Biden’s favor up to this point, but could severely backfire on him if he falters in the first two voting states.
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