Shellshocked by two big losses, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign tried to reassure donors, surrogates and the press about his path forward Wednesday while counterattacking nearly every one of his rivals.
“Elected officials across the country understand there will be down-ballot carnage to the Democratic Party if we elect the wrong person,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, the campaign’s co-chair, warned. “If Bernie Sanders were atop of the ticket, we would be in jeopardy of losing the House, we would not win the Senate back.”
Richmond, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also took aim at Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar for their anemic support among African Americans and criticized billionaire Michael Bloomberg for having been a Republican.
The attack-everyone strategy is a marked shift for a once high-flying Biden, who has tumbled from frontrunner to being in danger of becoming an also-ran.
In separate calls arranged with donors, reporters, and surrogates, his campaign leadership emphasized Biden’s support among African American and Latino voters and cast his losses in New Hampshire on Tuesday and in Iowa Feb. 3 as less-than-lethal because of their predominantly white electorates. They also laid out plans to put Biden on television to elevate his national visibility.
Polls, however, are starting to indicate that Biden’s losses in the first two early states are damaging his standing with nonwhite voters.
The first test of the Biden campaign’s theory of his strength comes Feb. 22 in Nevada, where the campaign has boosted its paid-staffer presence from 50 before the Iowa caucus to 80 now. Biden is scheduled to visit the state on Friday and Saturday with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, to showcase the campaign’s Latino outreach, and with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), to underscore Biden’s African American support.
Biden’s campaign is also hoping to score the endorsement of his 16th Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Steven Horsford of Las Vegas. Biden’s visit to the state this weekend coincides with the kickoff of caucus early voting that starts Saturday and ends Tuesday.
Nevada state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, a top adviser to the Biden campaign, said Nevada won’t be a repeat of New Hampshire.
“We knew from the beginning of this contest that Nevada was going to be the first state that has an electorate that matches what the country looks like,” Cancela said, “and the diverse coalition of supporters for the VP reflects his ability to assemble the coalition of voters you need to win the nomination and the presidency.”
On Wednesday, Biden, his wife, Jill, senior adviser Anita Dunn and campaign manager Greg Schultz joined a call to rally major donors to Biden’s campaign. Dunn, who recently assumed a larger role on the campaign, urged the donors to remember that “this is the beginning, not the end, of the primary process” and discussed how the former vice president will be at a greater advantage in the increasingly diverse states of South Carolina and Nevada, according to two people on the call.
The campaign also pledged to put the vice president and surrogates on television to push Biden’s message nationally, starting with an appearance Thursday on “The View.”
“Obviously it’s always better to win. But I think they’ve got a good plan going forward. And from my perspective I’m going to support the candidate that’s strongest,” said Denise Bauer, a Biden fundraiser who was formerly U.S. ambassador to Belgium. “We just keep having the conversation with people” about Biden and his strengths in the race, Bauer said.
Biden will link up with donors again on Thursday night. Nearly 40 hosts, many of them first-time bundlers for his campaign, are set to host a pair of major fundraisers in New York City. Among them are heavyweight financiers Blair Effron and Marc Lasry, former Ambassador Jane Hartley, real estate executive Barry Gosin, and former National Economic Council Director Jeffrey Zients.
Attendees have pledged a total of $750,000 ahead of the events, according to a person with knowledge of the planning.
Biden’s allies hope the Thursday fundraisers in Manhattan will help show that he has not been abandoned by the donor class. More than any other remaining candidate in the race, Biden is reliant on major contributors for campaign cash. Pete Buttigieg, who has consistently outraised Biden, has more than a dozen big-money fundraisers scheduled before Super Tuesday.
Biden’s poor showing in the early states has shaken some of his donors. Thursday’s events may be successful, but they were planned weeks before his performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, one Biden donor said.
The big question, the donor said, is, “Where does the next fundraiser come from?” — in other words, will givers still be there if Biden continues to underperform?
Though Biden still has time to recover, said Steve Westly, a Biden fundraiser and former state controller of California, it needs to happen soon, especially if he wants to keep raising money.
“Biden has not done as well as we’d hoped, so fundraising is tougher. I think a lot of people are waiting to see how things shake out,” said Westly.
During a later conference call with reporters Wednesday, Richmond pledged the campaign is “going to fight hard in Nevada, we’re going to fight hard in South Carolina. More importantly, we’re going to make the case that voters know Joe.”
The campaign hopes that South Carolina will be a springboard into the March 3 Super Tuesday run of states, some of which have heavy African American and Latino electorates.
Super Tuesday also marks a new phase of the campaign when Bloomberg, who skipped the first four early states, will be competing on the strength of an ad campaign that could reach $300 million by the March 3 election.
Bloomberg’s reason for unexpectedly announcing his bid in November was rooted in his campaign’s belief that Biden’s support would fall apart.
Biden’s campaign initially dismissed Bloomberg as a serious threat but has started to change its posture after Biden lost two elections while some endorsers began flipping their support from the former vice president to the former New York mayor.
Asked how he would compete against Bloomberg in Super Tuesday states when the former New York mayor is already investing in millions of dollars in TV ads and in a ground game, Garcetti downplayed the threat.
“Joe Biden doesn’t have to spend money to introduce himself to voters, other candidates do,” Garcetti said.