The former vice president Joseph Biden abruptly announced on Tuesday morning that he won’t spend primary night in New Hampshire as planned and instead is flying to South Carolina to headline a newly scheduled kick-off rally in the state he’s long considered his campaign firewall.
“We’re going to head to South Carolina tonight,” Biden told reporters as he visited a polling station with voting underway in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House. “And I’m going to Nevada, we’ve got to look at them all.”
The campaign confirmed Biden is now canceling his originally scheduled appearance at a primary night party in Nashua, N.H., and will be in South Carolina instead. The New Hampshire party will go on as scheduled without him. But the campaign emphasized that Biden would continue to stop by polling stations during the afternoon.
Nevada and South Carolina follow New Hampshire – which is an overwhelmingly white state – in the presidential nominating calendar. Biden’s campaign has long considered Nevada and South Carolina – with their far more diverse electorates – as much friendlier ground for the former vice president.
Biden, who limped into New Hampshire after a lackluster fourth-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucuses, said Monday night to his supporters: “Stick with me 24 hours and we’re going to be just fine. We’re going to win this nomination.”
On Tuesday he said he was still “mildly hopeful” about his prospects in New Hampshire, while also downplaying expectations consistently for the Granite State.
“I took a hit in Iowa and I’m probably going to take a hit here,” Biden said in a striking moment at the top of Friday night’s Democratic presidential nomination debate.
With the race for first increasingly looking to be between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s essentially battling with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota for a top-three ticket out of the Granite State.
It’s a stunning predicament for the candidate who was once the unrivaled front-runner for the nomination. He’s long made electability central to his campaign pitch.
“If your candidacy is based on electability, once you don’t win elections, that electability argument dissipates very rapidly,” Smith explained. “If Biden does very poorly in New Hampshire, going forward those voters in Nevada and South Carolina are going to look at that electability argument in a very different light because to be electable, you need to win elections.”
Democratic nomination rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – asked whether Biden’s departure to South Carolina before the polls says something about the former vice president’s prospects in New Hampshire – answered “you have to ask Joe. I don’t know.”