'Stench of death': Biden's spectacular fall

Wednesday - 12/02/2020 12:27
Barack Obama's vice president was meant to be the favourite for the Democratic nomination. Now, Joe Biden is suddenly in massive trouble.

Bernie Sanders has won the New Hampshire primary, solidifying his status as the new frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It was Mr Sanders’ second consecutive victory in the state, having racked up a whopping 60 per cent of the vote against Hillary Clinton four years ago.

This time, with far more candidates in the race, the result was much closer. Mr Sanders claimed 26 per cent of the vote, narrowly beating former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who finished with 24 per cent.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was previously considered only an outside chance to win the nomination, reinvigorated her campaign by surging into third place with 20 per cent.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren found herself a distant fourth, stuck in single digits with 9 per cent.

And shockingly, former vice president Joe Biden – supposedly the favourite for the nomination – finished even further behind in fifth, with just 8 per cent.

After Mr Biden’s equally tepid performance in Iowa a week ago, and with the news that Mr Sanders has passed him in national polls, it’s fair to say Mr Biden has now relinquished that frontrunner status.

So, let's sum up today's result in New Hampshire. How did the five leading candidates for the Democratic nomination perform?

Three of them will be happy.

Bernie Sanders has now won the popular vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire, albeit narrowly in both cases. He has also consolidated support from the party's more progressive voters.

In his victory speech earlier, Mr Sanders said he was building an "unprecedented" movement, spanning multiple generations and racial groups. The guy oozes confidence.


Pete Buttigieg technically won Iowa (on the pledged delegate measure used by the party), and now he has finished just barely behind Mr Sanders in New Hampshire, a state where Mr Sanders was always meant to be extremely strong.

It's a remarkable start to the campaign for Mr Buttigieg, who at 38 years old is both the youngest and least experienced candidate in the race.

But it's only going to get harder for him. The next states on the calendar are far more racially diverse, and he has yet to prove he can win support from the Hispanic and African American communities.


Amy Klobuchar was languishing well behind in the polls – until the presidential debate last Friday, where she performed strongly. As a result of that, she surged into third place today, finishing well ahead of more fancied candidates.

The moderate Senator from Minnesota believes she is the person who can win over moderates, and even some voters who sometimes lean Republican, to beat Donald Trump in the general election.

But her slow start to the campaign means she does not have the same level of fundraising or organisation on the ground as Mr Sanders and Mr Buttigieg. That will be tested in next coming contests.


And now we come to the two losers.

Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Both were stuck in the single digits. Both will now face questions about the viability of their campaigns going forward.

"They've both taken on the stench of death," a staffer on a rival campaign – not exactly a neutral source, I'll grant you – told New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi as the New Hampshire results rolled in.

The staffer said Mr Biden's events in the last week had "all the enthusiasm of a wake", and Ms Warren was "never going to out-Bernie Bernie" for the support of progressive voters.

It might be a biased take, but it's also accurate. Both candidates are in serious trouble.

Mr Biden in particular is pinning his hopes on Nevada and South Carolina, where the electorates are more diverse. If he fails there too, it's hard to envision him continuing in the race.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham summed up the situation pretty well, comparing Mr Sanders' momentum to Donald Trump's four years ago.

Back then, anti-Trump Republican voters failed to coalesce around an alternative candidate, and that cleared his path to the nomination.

"For you moderates, it will either be (Michael) Bloomberg, Mayor Pete or Klobuchar. You need to pick one at this point. It's not going to be Biden. If you want to beat Sanders, you have to form a coalition now," Ingraham said.

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 Keywords: Barack Obama, US Elections

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