MANCHESTER, N.H. — Joe Biden limped away from New Hampshire with a devastating fifth-place finish, zero delegates and the viability of his campaign in question.
It’s a precipitous fall for the former vice president, who entered the 2020 race last year with a lead in nearly every national and state poll.
By Tuesday night, Biden was so diminished, he fled the first-in-the-nation primary state before the polls even closed. Instead, he attended a “launch party“ in South Carolina, the state long considered his firewall, desperate to signal to nervous donors and African American supporters that he was not planning to throw in the towel.
“There’s blood in the water,” said Quentin James, executive director of The Collective, a political action committee that backs African American candidates. “Black voters are starting to leave him now. … A big reason lots of black voters were with Biden is they thought he was the best person to beat Trump. And they thought one reason for that is that he had the support of white voters. Now they see he has done so poorly with white voters and he no longer looks like the electability candidate.”
The size and scope of the loss — he failed to crack double digits or win any sizable city or town — challenged the wisdom of Biden’s strategy of not competing hard in New Hampshire. Biden had downplayed expectations of doing well here, claiming New Hampshire favored politicians from neighboring states, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But two politicians from the Midwest, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, finished ahead of Biden, undercutting his talking point.
“This is horrendous. We’re all scared,” said a Biden adviser, speaking anonymously because the comments conflict with the brave public face the campaign is trying to broadcast. “I think we’re going to make it to South Carolina. I know we’re supposed to say we’re going to and we’re going to win. But I just don’t know.”
Biden’s fourth-place finish in Iowa further eroded his already tenuous foothold in the Granite State. In the final hours before the primary, the campaign concluded it was headed for another embarrassing defeat and recalibrated, moving the candidate to South Carolina for the forward-looking rally. Even before Tuesday, several Biden aides had predicted Biden could finish anywhere from third to fifth place in New Hampshire.