Biden 2020: A Pre-Post Mortem
"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." — William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 2
Perhaps nothing during this primary season will give me greater pleasure than to write Joe Biden's political obituary, and I might not have to wait long to do it, if recent caucus results, poll numbers, debate performances, and fundraising troubles are anything to go by.
My, that's an awful lot to go by, isn't it?
Let's start with the fundraising, which serves as a decent proxy for the predictions markets. Donors put their own money on the line for a candidate they not only support, but believe can win. The Hill's Amie Parnes spoke with a Democrat bundler who said of Biden, "His fundraising was already suffering. It has not been great." That was before Biden limped into last place in Iowa. Going into New Hampshire, the bundler predicted that Biden will have "a tougher time raising money now that he needs it."
Most curious however was this bit of intel from Parnes' story:
Even before the Iowa results, one California fundraising event scheduled for Feb. 20 was pushed back to March 4, a day after more than a dozen contests are held on this cycle’s Super Tuesday. The event was pushed back without explanation, sources say, leaving some donors to wonder aloud if the Biden campaign couldn’t get enough attendees for the event.
California is pretty much the Dems' giant piggy bank, and it's also a treasure trove of delegates. Winning those delegates isn't cheap, since California is too big for candidates to play retail politics, so getting out the message means buying airtime in some of the country's most expensive ad markets. If Biden has moved that big fundraiser to the day after the California primary on March 3 "Super Tuesday," that looks like a small sign that he doesn't expect to still be in the race on March 3. And by "small sign," I mean, "The Bat-Signal with fresh bulbs on a moonless night."
I wondered last week if Biden would use last Friday's debate to shake things up, but that was a swing and a miss. As I noted in the hours before the event (VIP members link), "something's got to change because whatever Biden has been doing it isn't working." It still isn't. Biden did pretty much the same thing he'd done in previous outings, but louder. Same word vomit, same progressive bandwagon, same old Joe. The only difference was that Biden tried to turn up the volume to a Bernie 11. But Democrats don't like Sanders because he shouts; they like him because he comes across as genuine. Biden... doesn't. He has gone more on the attack against new frontrunners Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, but as Rick Klein and MaryAlice Parks noted in an ABC News report, Biden is still harping on his electability, which is "a hard case to make if you're not winning elections."
Speaking of winning elections, how is New Hampshire looking? Pretty good, if your name is anything other than Joe Biden. He's in bad enough shape that his campaign could compellingly play up a third-place finish there tomorrow as a moral victory. Biden admitted as much during the start of Friday's debate, saying he'd "probably take a hit" in the Granite State. POLITICO reported on Saturday that that kind of attitude isn't doing him any favors:
Tricia Owens, a 59-year-old therapist from southern New Hampshire and Biden donor, who said she was so disappointed that she won’t volunteer for him “for a whole bunch of phone-banking” she had signed up for over the coming days.
“I could not stop thinking about what he said about how he wouldn’t do well in New Hampshire,” she said, noting many New Hampshire voters are undecided “and then he said something stupid like that? I just thought it was so disrespectful to us in New Hampshire.”
Reactions like that one are what caused "an experienced New Hampshire politico" to tell Byron York, "You think Biden is losing support by the hour? By the minute."
That third-place comeback looks more and more out of reach. According to RCP poll averaging, Biden is locked in a tie for fourth with Amy Klobuchar, both behind Warren by more than a full point. This chart from RCP tells the story of just how dramatic Biden's collapse has been:
In just five weeks, Biden has gone from barely leading to barely hanging on. If he doesn't do as well as even third place tomorrow, what will be his pitch to Nevada Democrats who caucus just 11 days after New Hampshire? "You ain't seen nothin' yet" isn't much of a pitch after three failed nominating contests and a literal adult lifetime in politics. Everybody knows Joe, and if they don't like him yet, when will they?
Earlier today our own Matt Margolis argued that President Trump's impeachment, which some thought would hurt sitting senators like Sanders and Warren by keeping them off the campaign trail, in fact, "probably doomed" Biden's campaign. Highlighting the Biden Clan's Ukraine corruption certainly didn't help Joe any, but there might have been another element at work. Impeachment gave Democratic senators the chance to do what Democratic voters seem to crave the most: Attack Trump in self-defeating ways. I don't get it, but evidently they really do love that.
Iowa hurt, too, and not just because of Biden's fourth-place finish. The weeklong Iowa Agony sucked all the air out of the room. For days, all anyone could talk about was Buttigieg and Sanders and who won or who got robbed. That left no opportunity for Biden to change the narrative of a campaign in freefall.
And it couldn't be happening to a more deserving money-grubbing, stranger-fondling, voter-insulting, spewer of endless verbal diarrhea.