Joe Biden Plays Catchup in Iowa After Months of Dismissing Caucus-goers
Lagging in enthusiasm, fundraising and support in the polls, Joe Biden is kicking off a bus tour in Iowa for 8 days and plans to return in late December. The “No Malarky” tour represents a complete reversal of strategy for the former vice president and 2020 Democratic frontrunner.
With less than 10 weeks before the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, the campaign has only held 50 events statewide, far less than the other competitive candidates.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has held 93. The surging former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has held 82. Iowa caucus-goers on both sides of the aisle have a long and proud tradition of demanding personal attention, and recent polls have reflected which candidates have been courting them.
A recent Des Moines Register/CNN poll conducted from November 8 to November 13 showed Mr. Buttigieg far ahead with 25% support. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the former frontrunner in both Iowa and New Hampshire, lagged behind in second at 16%.
Mr. Biden was effectively in a statistical tie with Senator Sanders for third at 15%. However, more recent polling gauged Senator Sanders in a stronger poll position over Mr. Biden.
An Iowa State University poll conducted from November 15 to November 19 showed Mr. Buttigieg leading with 26%, with Senators Warren (19%) and Sanders (18%) battling for second. Mr. Biden was solidly in fourth place at only 12%.
For months, the Biden Campaign insisted he didn’t need to win either of the early states of Iowa or New Hampshire, arguing instead that his strength among minority voters will enable him to turn a corner in South Carolina and other diverse states on Super Tuesday.
In fact, the campaign was bracing supporters and donors for losses in both states only a few weeks ago. Fast-forward to the present, and the campaign is bombarding contributor email lists with desperate fundraising calls.
The 2020 rapid response team for the Trump Campaign has been having a field day taking screenshots of them and posting them to social media.
State activists who support Mr. Biden and party officials nationwide are frequently referencing the dynamic of 2004. That nomination cycle — the last in which Democratic hopefuls vied to challenge a Republican incumbent — the “moderate” Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., defeated the more progressive Vermont Governor Howard Dean in the Iowa Caucuses.
Mr. Dean surged late in much the same way as Mr. Buttigieg, but imploded at the most opportune time for the Kerry Campaign in a field that offered voters far fewer choices.
The reason for the shift is simple but two-fold.
First, unlike Republican nominations in modern electoral history, the winner of the Democratic Iowa Caucuses have gone on to secure the nomination. While Mr. Biden allegedly has the potential to appeal to working class voters, he certainly hasn’t been able to count on their support.
As of October 15, Mr. Biden raised just $15.7 million in the previous quarter and only $4.7 million are low dollar contributions. Most of his financial support comes from big donors who have already maxed out their contribution limits. His burn rate is currently at an unsustainable 76%.
For comparison, Senator Sanders raised $28 million, of which $15.1 million came from low dollar donations. The burn rate for the Sanders Campaign is 55%.
Senator Warren raised $24.7 million, of which $15 million came from low dollar donations. The burn rate for the Warren Campaign is 57%.
Mr. Buttigieg raised $19.2 million, of which $8.7 million came from low dollar donations. The burn rate for the Buttigieg Campaign mirrors the Sanders Campaign at 55%.
A loss in Iowa would be bad enough for those numbers, but a poor showing could be catastrophic for fundraising. That’s particularly true given Democratic voters in New Hampshire tend to favor hometown or neighboring candidates.
They have either Senators Warren or Sanders to choose from, and backed the latter over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a wide margin.
Second, there are signs minority support for Mr. Biden is cracking and running only on Obama-era nostalgia. He hasn’t boasted levels comparable to Mrs. Clinton in 2016 for nearly six months. Mrs. Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, fended off a challenge from the more progressive Senator Sanders by winning more than 7 out of 10 nonwhite voters.
That was due largely to older African Americans voting at higher rates than younger African Americans. In total, nonwhites made up roughly 4 in 10 Democratic nomination voters in 2016, and Hispanic Democratic voters nearly handed a win in the Nevada Caucuses to Senator Sanders.
Less than two weeks ago, the most senior Latina staffer who had been serving as national coalitions director since Mr. Biden formally announced his presidential bid, quit the campaign. Vanessa Cárdenas was in charge of outreach to Latino, African-Americans and women’s groups.
She was frustrated over her lack of input on the campaign and with Mr. Biden’s rhetoric on immigration. That rift was exposed in South Carolina last Thursday, the very state the campaign had argued would turn it all around.
Mr. Biden clashed with Carlos Rojas, an illegal immigration activist with the group Movimiento Cosecha, who asked him to pledge that he would halt deportations.
When Mr. Biden refused, Mr. Rojas told him that he volunteered for the Obama-Biden Campaign in 2008, but had since become disenchanted because “over those 8 years, there were 3 million people that were deported and separated from their families.”
“You should vote for Trump,” Mr. Biden said cutting him off.