WaPo wonders: Where'd Joe go? Update: Dunn?

Where, indeed? According to the Washington Post, Joe Biden has disappeared from New Hampshire ahead of next week’s first-in-the-nation primary. Biden hasn’t surfaced in South Carolina either this week, his vaunted firewall in the Democratic primaries. Instead, he’s back home in Delaware, in a very strange use of rapidly diminishing time to right the ship after it foundered in Iowa:

Outside the castle-themed Radisson Hotel where Joe Biden has been staying, his campaign bus was parked and ready for events.

But on Thursday, just five days before the crucial primary here, the candidate was nowhere to be found.

Biden spent Thursday gathered with his top advisers at his home in Wilmington, Del., seeking a reset and perhaps a last-ditch effort to save his candidacy, beginning with a debate Friday night. He held no public events.

Even worse, Biden has begun appearing less in South Carolina as the polling narrows in the Palmetto State. They moved up ad spending to stanch the bleeding in Nevada, apparently:

In one troublesome sign for the financially strapped campaign, it canceled nearly $150,000 in television ads in South Carolina, which votes Feb. 29, and moved the spending to Nevada, whose Feb. 22 contest follows New Hampshire’s. The move seemed to acknowledge that Biden’s campaign cannot sustain a continued run of bad news.

Biden will no doubt be in New Hampshire by the time this post publishes, because he has to attend tonight’s debate in Manchester. Losing even a day of retail politicking in the Granite State ahead of Tuesday’s primary is, to quote Joe himself, a big f****g deal, though. It’s all but conceding a poor performance in the Granite State, where he had been running in second place in the polls before his collapse this week in Iowa:

If you missed it before now, be sure to read Allahpundit’s post on the latest NH polling. Before the Hawkeye Hork, though, Biden was running a solid second place with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren duking it out for a close third. Buttigieg had actually been on the wane for the past month. Biden could have picked up some delegates here and gone into Nevada and South Carolina with some wind behind him. Instead, he’s spent the last couple of days off the campaign trail and trying to figure out where it’s all gone wrong.

That has left his campaign with a messaging vacuum. Buttigieg is taking advantage of it, too:

Buttigieg tells us Iowa was the first chance for the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates to prove their “electability” and show they can defeat Donald Trump … and he did it in spades. Biden, on the other hand, took a pretty hard L.

Pete says he’s focused on keeping the momentum going in the New Hampshire primary and beyond, and though he says he won’t tell Biden how to run his campaign … he hints Joe should read the political tea leaves.

Oooof. That’d be the upstart mayor of South Bend telling the 48-year Beltway veteran and former Vice President to wake up and smell the café latté.

What happens next? The Post article advises readers to look for reshuffling of campaign staffs, and for Biden to go on the attack. He began to do so on Wednesday, trying to draw contrasts between himself and Buttigieg and Warren in particular, cutting against an earlier pledge to remain positive about fellow Democrats. Another measure of Biden’s thought processes may be where he spends his Sunday mornings. So far he’s eschewed those appearances, but Biden might not have the luxury of being picky about getting screen time. It doesn’t replace retail politicking, but Biden’s not been doing much of that, either.

All of this depends in large part on his performance tonight. In previous debates, Biden has only needed to coast to protect his front-runner status, and has been content to let everyone else attack each other. The situation has changed dramatically now, though, and Biden has to deliver a strong performance tonight across the whole event in order to recharge confidence and enthusiasm in his campaign. If he coasts through tonight’s debate, Biden won’t have to worry about getting attacked — he’ll have to worry about getting left behind.

Finally, one has to wonder whether Biden got torpedoed by House and Senate Democrats. Just how much of this erosion comes from the constant drumbeat of Ukraine-Gate, Hunter Biden’s connections, and the curiosity over how Joe’s relatives keep getting richer? Peter Beinart’s not happy about what he sees as an unfair attack, but he’s also wondering just how much the impeachment effort has kneecapped the party’s heir presumptive — and how much it’s helped Donald Trump:

Amazingly, impeachment appears to have hurt Biden more than Trump. Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated the impeachment inquiry on September 24, Trump’s approval rating has generally risen. It stood at 40 percent in the first Gallup poll after Pelosi’s announcement. In Gallup’s latest survey, Trump stands at 49 percent. According to RealClearPolitics’ polling average, Trump’s rating dropped a bit during the first month of the impeachment fight but has climbed ever since, and is now almost 45 percent—nearly as high as it has been during his entire presidency. As Aaron Blake has pointed out in The Washington Post, Trump has also seen a spike in the intensity of his support, while the intensity of public opposition has declined. Since late October, according to a recent Washington Post–ABC News poll, the percentage of Americans who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance has jumped five points, while the percentage who strongly disapprove has fallen eight points.

This spike in intensity is also reflected in fundraising. The Democratic National Committee raised roughly the same amount in May through August—the four months preceding the impeachment inquiry—as it did in September through December. (Figures are not yet available for January.) The Republican National Committee’s haul, meanwhile, grew during that span by almost $25 million. Combine the RNC’s fundraising with the Trump reelection campaign’s fundraising, and you see similar post-impeachment growth: from $105 million in the second quarter of 2019 to $125 million in the third quarter—when the impeachment inquiry began—to $154 million in the fourth quarter, during which the House voted to impeach. The leading Democratic presidential candidates, by contrast—with the exception of Sanders—did not see consistent fundraising growth during that period. Pete Buttigieg raised more money in the second quarter, before the impeachment inquiry began, than he did in the third quarter, once it got under way. So did Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren saw her fundraising dip in the fourth quarter, as the House impeachment inquiry reached its climax.

Frankly, all of this was very predictable. Democrats went down that road anyway. And now Biden might be paying the price, and Democrats may have laid out a path for Trump’s re-election because of it.

Update: In the Washington Post article, Dick Harpootlian advised Biden to get “sharper elbows” involved. Presto, here comes Anita “War on Fox News” Dunn to the rescue:

If Democrats want to boost Biden to hold off the Bernie Bro socialist horde, hiring someone who spoke approvingly of Mao is an odd move for that strategy. At any rate, Biden’s opponents had better be prepared for a lot more attacks coming their way.