After leaving New Hampshire early Tuesday while the state voted in the Democratic primary, former Vice President Joe Biden finished in a distant fifth place, winning just 8.4% of the vote in the key state.
Biden won nearly 50,000 fewer votes than first-place finisher Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after a year-long campaign in which corporate news outlets have frequently declared the former vice president the most "electable" candidate.
The former vice president's poor showing in New Hampshire came a week after Iowa caucus-goers gave him less than 15% of the vote, finishing in fourth place.
Dave Wasserman, editor of the Cook Political Report, wondered on social media whether Biden's results were "survivable" for the campaign.
I thought Joe Biden could survive a poor showing in IA/NH in the 10%-20% range, but a single digit showing? I don't know if this is survivable.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 12, 2020
Journalist Rania Khalek slammed beltway pundits for spending months discounting Sanders' chances of primary election success and insisting Biden was the most "electable" candidate.
I love how we were told by the "experts" for the last year that Biden and Warren were the big players in the 2020 Dem primaries only for them to come in 3rd and 4th and 5th in the first two states.— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) February 12, 2020
Biden left New Hampshire before polls closed on Tuesday to travel to South Carolina, where the Democratic primary is taking place Feb. 29. The former vice president is leading polls in the state, but has dropped behind Sanders in Nevada, where people will vote on Feb. 22.
Dismissing New Hampshire and Iowa as the "first two of 50 states," despite the fact that his campaign spent considerable time and money in the two states, Biden assured the voters that his campaign will be proven to be alive and well and in the next two primaries.
"We need to hear from Nevada and South Carolina and Super Tuesday states and beyond," Biden said.
Joe Biden speaks in South Carolina on the night of the NH primary: “We just heard from the first two of 50 states. Two of them. Not all the nation, not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation, not 10%. … That's the opening bell, not the closing bell” https://t.co/RFEp5jkNZK pic.twitter.com/jzhPiNUbzx— CNN (@CNN) February 12, 2020
Biden's communications director, Kate Bedingfield, echoed the candidate's remarks on MSNBC Wednesday morning.
"What happened to Middle Class Joe?" asked anchor Hallie Jackson, referring to Biden's claim that he would appeal to working families who would find him relatable.
Bedingfield replied that Iowa and New Hampshire are "more affluent" than many other states and are not as racially diverse, and that the campaign had never expected to win the two states—a claim that MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake found "head-spinning."
Hearing a Biden surrogate tell @HallieJackson they never thought Iowa or New Hampshire were going to be good for them is head-spinning. Biden spent a TON of time in both states all summer and fall, periodically predicting victory or very strong showings in each— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) February 12, 2020
"Two out of 50 states have voted," Bedingfield said. "Not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation...African American voters know him, they have a sense of who he is."
A new poll out Tuesday from Monmouth University, however, showed Sanders currently has the highest approval ratings of the candidates among voters of color. The Vermont senator has particularly high support among young black voters.
Some observers credited the Sanders campaign with its sharp focus in recent weeks on Biden's history of pushing for cuts to Social Security, for its effect on Biden's campaign.
Sometimes the simplest explanations are right. Biden may have been doomed no matter what, but in the actual world, where he was actually doomed, this is indeed what did it: https://t.co/ZlF24BWvwk— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) February 12, 2020
David Sirota, Sanders' speechwriter "basically knocked Biden out of the race by himself. He just kept posting videos of [Biden] proposing to cut Social Security, and that was the end of that," tweeted podcast host Patrick Fenelon.