If Iowa was a “gut punch” for Joe Biden, New Hampshire was probably a kick to a spot a little lower on the anatomy. By the time the dust settled last night, Biden wasn’t just losing to Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg (who basically split the vote). He was beaten by Amy Klobuchar and even Elizabeth Warren. While the winners were giving victory speeches, the former Vice President had already fled the state and taken up residence in South Carolina.
Given the rules of the Granite State primary, neither Biden nor Warren will get a single delegate out of that primary. So is this the beginning of the end for Uncle Joe and his third time failing in a presidential bid? Well… that depends on who you ask. Olivia Nuzzi of New York Magazine says that Biden’s campaign “has taken on the stench of death.” And as for Elizabeth Warren, her campaign’s on life support and her relatives are eyeing the plug on the respirator.
“They’ve both taken on the stench of death,” a staffer on a rival campaign told me.
“Biden has lurched between different messages each of the last few days and delivered them to rooms so quiet you could hear a pin drop,” the staffer said. “His events have all the enthusiasm of a wake.”
“Warren has been squeezed — she was never going to out-Bernie Bernie,” the staffer added, “and she’s struggled with how exactly to position herself. Given that she’s from Massachusetts and shares a massive media market with New Hampshire, it’s hard to imagine how anything but a first- or second-place showing could be good for her campaign.”
Frankly, I think Nuzzi might be a bit off the mark here and reports of the death of the Biden campaign are probably premature. Both Iowa and New Hampshire always take on outsized importance every four years, but we should remember that the two current frontrunners (Sanders and Buttigieg) each have a grand total of earned delegates that are barely above two dozen. Biden has six from Iowa. Those numbers aren’t even a rounding error when it comes to the number you need to secure the nomination at the convention.
Biden told supporters last night that he’s “not going anywhere” and there’s really no reason for him to drop out… yet. I’ll believe that Joe is in trouble when I see his numbers go soft in South Carolina. The most recent polling we have there (admittedly a week old) still shows Biden lapping the field, with Tom Steyer surprisingly sucking a lot of the remaining oxygen out of the room for second place. And while we haven’t had any polling out of Nevada since Iowa, Biden and Sanders were running neck and neck last month.
And then there’s Super Tuesday. Sanders is poised to do very well in California, but there are plenty of states up for grabs. That includes Texas, where Biden still had a big lead as of two weeks ago. Yes, it would be surprising to see anyone come back from two beatings like Biden took in Iowa and New Hampshire and still secure the nomination, but it’s still well within the realm of possibility. Joe has enough campaign cash in the bank to remain active well past Super Tuesday, and his zombie campaign may still rise from the dead.