Joe Biden downplays New Hampshire amid scramble

Monday, February 10, 2020

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his top backers are downplaying expectations on the eve of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, while his rivals for the nomination look to the Granite State for a new springboard.

“You’ve got to get 1,900 delegates or more, and this is just getting started,” Biden said Monday on CBS, repeating his argument that the first two overwhelmingly white states in Democrats’ nominating process will not determine the nominee of a racially diverse party.

Yet Biden’s challenge in the opening states highlights a larger concern for Democrats as they look for a standard-bearer to take on President Donald Trump: No would-be nominee has proved an ability to build a strong coalition across the party’s various racial, ethnic and ideological factions, and that situation is muddled further by the vote-tabulation melee in last week’s Iowa caucuses that left both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg claiming victory.

Trump, meanwhile, is eager to cast a shadow over the entire Democratic field as he heads to Manchester for a Monday evening rally to continue his victory-andvengeance tour following Senate votes last Wednesday that acquitted Trump on two impeachment charges. Trump lost New Hampshire in 2016 by fewer than 3,000 votes out of more than 743,000 cast, and the state is among several his reelection campaign believes it can flip in November.

The Republican president’s supporters began lining up Sunday, and the crowd was growing Monday morning despite freezing, wet weather. Trump managed a similar scene in Iowa days ahead of the caucuses, drawing thousands of boisterous supporters who contrasted with a lower-than-expected caucus turnout for Democrats.

Against that backdrop, Biden insisted Monday that he remains well-positioned for the nomination and to defeat Trump in November. He pointed to endorsements from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Michigan’s legislative black caucus that he’s gotten since his poor finish in Iowa. “I’m still leading nationally,” the former vice president told CBS, referring to recent national polls.

Indeed, no Democrats have shown an ability to separate themselves from the pack.

Sanders, the Vermont senator, and Buttigieg are vying in New Hampshire for momentum that could dent Biden’s claims to national support. But Sanders, a democratic socialist, has virtually no support from the party’s center-left core, and some establishment figures openly fret about the prospects of Sanders leading the ticket in November.

Buttigieg draws large crowds with his calls for generational change, but the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, hasn’t demonstrated significant support from African American or Latino voters, who will become significant parts of the Democratic electorate in the states that follow New Hampshire. And several of Buttigieg’s rivals, Biden included, have started hammering his comparatively thin resume.