Biden’s Early Obstacle

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden

June 27, 2019 — One of the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s campaign began to come unglued in 2016 was failing to meet expectations in the early places.

Unfortunately for her, Iowa was always one of her weakest states and the fact that it is first on the voting schedule caused her air of inevitability to be pierced rather quickly.

As you may remember, Clinton won the Iowa Caucus, but the result was a virtual tie with Sen. Bernie Sanders, forcing the local committee people to decide some precinct results with the flip of a coin — tosses in which Clinton prevailed every time. With her inevitability veil coming off, Clinton then headed to New Hampshire where she would lose 60-38 percent.

Because the race winnowed to a two-person affair, Clinton was successfully able to rebound, scoring early victories in Nevada and South Carolina to get her campaign back on track.

Two new polls suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden may be facing a similar pattern in the early states, and being mired in a crowded field suggests we may see a different final result than what Clinton achieved.

Two new surveys suggest that Biden may already be weakening in the first two states. Though small in terms of first ballot delegate votes (Iowa, 41; New Hampshire, 24), the pair are critically important in casting early momentum. With 25 candidates now beginning the campaign, and at least six appearing viable, developing early momentum is more important than within the much smaller 2016 nomination field.

Change Research conducted the Iowa and New Hampshire polls (along with one in South Carolina where Biden has a comfortable 39-15-13-11 percent edge over Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg) and their findings suggest that Biden could have some early trouble. Though the polling samples are small — 308 respondents for each state — the sample size may accurately reflect the diminutive voting universes found in the two places. All the surveys were conducted from June 17-20.

In Iowa, Biden leads, but with only a 27-20-18-17 percent margin over Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders, while South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg posts a close 17 percent support. Having four candidates within 10 points suggests that any one of them could break out with a win, especially with the Feb. 3 Caucus still months away.

The New Hampshire numbers are worse for the national front runner. Here, it is Sen. Sanders who finishes first with 28 percent, followed by the former vice president at 24 percent, Sen. Warren close behind claiming 21 percent preference, and Mayor Buttigieg recording 14 percent.

To put this in perspective, as it relates to the projected delegate count, Biden would only score a 14-10-9-8 Iowa advantage over Sens. Warren, Sanders, and Mayor Buttigieg, respectively.

Adding the New Hampshire delegate count, we would find (assuming Buttigieg’s actual percentage rises from 14 to 15) Sanders claiming 8 votes, Biden 7, Warren 6, and Buttigieg 3.

Therefore, combining the first two states would yield the following approximate delegate count:

Biden 21
Sanders 17
Warren 16
Buttigieg 11

If this proportion were to accurately project the February outcome after voting concludes in the first two states, Biden could no long be considered a clear front runner, and the race would likely fall into a state of flux.

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