I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.
This shtick is fine for August, six months out from the start of the race, but it’s baffling on the morning of the New Hampshire primary when Biden desperately needs a good showing to preserve his plausibility as a nominee. Didn’t we see a poll just yesterday showing that his edge in electability is eroding, and with it the entire case for nominating him?
My new theory is that he’s tired, he knows the writing’s on the wall, and he’s decided to be a good soldier for his party in defeat. He’s not even throwing roundhouses at Buttigieg anymore after uppercutting him this past weekend.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) February 11, 2020
In fairness to him, he’s not claiming that every Democrat running is *equally* electable. He ranted a bit on Sunday about the baggage that the “democratic socialist” label would impose on Democrats downballot if the party nominates Sanders. But asking him to declare that Bernie flatly can’t win?
He won’t say that even with the polls now open in New Hampshire.
His Super PAC is being more aggressive on electability:
“Donors hedging their bets on Biden because of Bloomberg could be creating a doomsday scenario for Democrats everywhere,” the group’s treasurer, Larry Rasky, wrote [in a memo to donors]. “The Sanders-Warren wing of the Party is ready for the Bloomberg fight. Democrats cannot afford a split Convention.
“If Bernie has more delegates, do you really think the Bros will make way for Mike?,” it added, referring to the hard-core Sanders supporters known as “Bernie Bros.” “Not to mention that the legacy of the Sanders campaign (such as the Squad) will ravage any chance Center-Left Democrats have of maintaining hard won victories in states from Pennsylvania to California.”
Biden’s now tied with Elizabeth Warren for fourth place in New Hampshire in the RCP average, dead even at 11.0 percent apiece. Amy Klobuchar has moved slightly ahead of them thanks to her debate performance on Friday night. If Biden ends up in fifth tonight, who’s donating to him — or to his Super PAC — next week?
Right, right, there’s always South Carolina. But his SC strategy increasingly feels like the 2020 version of Rudy Giuliani’s much-derided Florida strategy in 2008. In both cases the candidate was eyeing a specific demographic in the state that supposedly made it a stronghold for him: In Biden’s case it’s black voters, in Rudy’s case it was Florida’s sizable population of former New Yorkers. What Giuliani discovered, and what Biden’s likely to discover, is that your potential base won’t stick with you if you’re a nonfactor in the early states.
Plus, as a Twitter pal pointed out yesterday, the calendar isn’t Biden’s friend. Even if he wins big in South Carolina, there’s scarcely any time for him to reap the benefits in a tangible way. He’ll get some good buzz for a change but there’ll be little opportunity for him to monetize it. South Carolina votes on February 29; Super Tuesday is just three days later, on March 3. How many ads and how much travel will Biden be able to afford to book in advance for Super Tuesday if he looks dead until 72 hours before polls open?
I think he’s done and he knows it, especially with Bloomberg about to intrude on the centrist lane of the race. By the end of the month he could end up as a zombie candidate, having lost Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada handily and having won South Carolina weakly, with a narrow margin. That victory, however unimpressive, will force him to hang around the race for a few more days until Super Tuesday even though he’ll have little chance at the sort of sweeping wins that would revive his candidacy. All he’ll accomplish by competing that day will be to hoard votes from more viable centrists like Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and possibly Klobuchar.
Some establishment Dems are going to start pushing him to get out, to maximize their chances of stopping Bernie. If Biden can’t do that, and increasingly it seems that he can’t, he’s a pure liability in the race.
By the way, this news is breaking as I’m writing:
Joe Biden is blowing off his election night party in NH and going to SC tonight instead
— Matt Viser (@mviser) February 11, 2020
Note well: He’s going to South Carolina even though Nevada is next on the calendar. He’s all but giving up on that state, it seems. And, for God knows what reason, he’s announcing that he won’t stick around for the results tonight *before* most Democrats in New Hampshire have voted today, effectively giving up on that state too while voters are still going to the polls. What incentive does any moderate Dem in New Hampshire who’s on the fence between Joe, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar have to give him their vote now? Biden’s all but declaring that it’s a lost cause. Might as well go with Pete or Amy. Which means the odds of a disastrous fifth-place finish for Biden have just risen considerably.
Exit question: He’s giving up, isn’t he? He’s going to make a half-hearted effort in South Carolina for the sake of his staff but he’s done.