We may never know who won the Democratic Iowa Caucuses, so messed up that the vote counting has become. However, we do know that former Vice President Joe Biden, already a two-time loser in past presidential contests, lost in the Hawkeye State. The voting tallies that we do have in place, Biden, as coming in fourth, behind Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg. Biden knows that he is in trouble too.
Biden has admitted that the results in Iowa were like a “gut punch” as far as he is concerned. No wonder. The conventional wisdom was that the former vice president would be the safe, “electable” choice, certainly not a crazy person like Bernie Sanders. But he has uttered too many gaffes, had too many “senior moments” for people to be entirely safe with him. While Bernie is skyrocketing in the polls, moderate Democrats are casting around for another “safe” choice, be it Buttigieg, Bloomberg, or even Klobuchar.
According to NBC News, Biden is not going to go down the drain without a fight. He has started to lash out in a combative way to try to show people that he has some fight in him.
“The former vice president has grown more combative with his main Democratic rivals this week in an attempt to shore up his support in primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada, where victory is far from assured. Going 0 for 3 would risk shattering the front-runner status Biden has held nationally, and raise questions about his unique “electability” against President Donald Trump — the central argument of his candidacy.”
Along those lines, Biden has started to attack some of his opponents by name. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, is “inexperienced.” Bernie Sanders is a socialist, a true statement and one, in Biden’s view, that would doom not only the candidacy of the senator from Vermont but a lot of down-ballot Democrats as well.
Buttigieg has attacked Biden for being part of the “old, failed Washington establishment” according to The Week. Biden pounced at this jibe, turned around, and dared the young former mayor to list Obama administration failures. The tactic is a sound one in a Democratic primary contest. Former President Obama still retains some popularity among the left of center voters, especially African Americans.
On the other hand, such a challenge would be like catnip to a sufficiently combative Republican candidate in the general election, say President Donald Trump. Perhaps Mr. Biden has heard of Obamacare?
The New Hampshire Primary is a do or die contest for Biden according to most analysts, even though he might entertain the idea of recovering in South Carolina, with its store of African American voters who still remember Biden as Obama’s partner in labor. The polling is somewhat muddled. One shows Sanders on top with Buttigieg and Biden far behind. Another shows Biden and Sanders tied for first place.
Biden might survive a close second place in New Hampshire. The same strategy worked for Bill Clinton in 1992, according to the New York Times.
Clinton’s presidential campaign was on life support after he was trounced by then-Sen Tom Harkin in Iowa. He campaigned vigorously in New Hampshire, making the state, in effect, his last stand. Even though Paul Tsongas won in the state by virtue of his being the senator in next-door Massachusetts, Clinton made a respectable second-place showing, loudly calling himself “the comeback kid.” Clinton went on to win the Democratic nomination and then the general election against then-President George H. W. Bush.
Clearly, Biden is thinking about the same scenario. Even second place in New Hampshire will demonstrate that some life exists in the old man and his campaign. Then, according to NBC News:
“Biden advisers insist he still has a path forward. Their argument largely rests on strong showings in Nevada and South Carolina to build momentum into Super Tuesday on March 3, where his current advantage with black voters could translate into the first real delegate infusion.”
Biden’s one hope is that African American voters, still nostalgic for the Obama years, will save him. But most analysts believe that a more probable scenario shows him doing poorly in New Hampshire and then running completely out of gas in South Carolina. However, as of now, the old man intends to go down swinging if he must go down.