All eyes are set on New Hampshire as the state prepares for its primary, following a confusing but telling Iowa caucus. At the beginning of the 2020 presidential election cycle, there was a clear frontrunner. That candidate is a former senator, a former vice president, a household name, and is considered to have high electability—Joe Biden. Yet, the Iowa caucuses have shown that Biden missed the mark, coming in what is now reported as fourth, following Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
Winning Iowa plays a vital role in determining who will be picked for a party’s nomination, with only one instance of a candidate finishing lower than third and going on to win the nomination—John McCain in 2008.
So, just what is Biden missing? What is setting the candidates who led him in Iowa apart? What happened? By taking a look into the minds of supporters and voters in New Hampshire in the five days leading up to the presidential primary, there are clear answers to these questions.
The current leader in delegates from Iowa, Pete Buttigieg is rapidly becoming the Democratic party’s moderate frontrunner, once in Biden’s hands. At a Buttigieg watch party for the Democratic debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, it seems clear as to why precisely this shift is taking place. Jimmy Kyriakoutsakos, 50, of Manchester, N.H., once a former Biden supporter, detailed his reasoning as to why he now sides with Buttigieg.
“Biden just doesn’t have the Obama ‘it’ factor; on the other hand, Pete is clearly showing he has that,” Kyriakoutsakos said.
For Kyriakoutsakos, this election isn’t about policy; it’s about electability. While he will vote for whoever the Democratic nominee will be come November, he believes that Buttigieg has a unique factor and relatability, similar to Obama which enabled him to draw many supporters early on in 2008. This “Obama factor” has been greatly attributed to Buttigieg by his supporters.
Coming into the New Hampshire primary, Kyriakoutsakos described that the Iowa caucus results greatly affected him to lean more toward Buttigieg. He believes it is clear that with Biden coming in fourth, he does not have what it takes to win over voters across the country. “Even a month before the caucuses you saw much more support for Biden here in New Hampshire. The people here felt good about him and his chances, the support was much greater. But it is clear that has since changed, many don’t believe he has what it takes to win over the country.”
With other candidates having a slew of events in the five days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, Biden’s were much fewer and far between. When asking Kyriakoutsakos about Biden’s presence in New Hampshire, he stated that he has noticed that Biden hasn’t been putting in the work to win over New Hampshire voters.
“Pete, Elizabeth, and even Bernie have doubled their meet and greets, their events. You can’t take it easy, you have to fight hard for every vote, and Biden just hasn’t been doing that.”
Sentiments among Buttigieg supporters seem to be the same, Biden the original moderate choice has fallen short, and the weight falls on him.
At the annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire, the concourse was filled with tables for each respective candidate where supporters and voters could get free gear, make a campaign contribution, and find out more information about each candidate. While attendees flooded tables for Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren, visitors to Biden were few and not of substance. From observing, those who were visiting his tables purely wanted a memento of the candidate. When asked by staffers at the table if they were supporters or voting for Biden, almost all said no. In the stands, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, and even Amy Klobuchar had far greater supporters as they were told to sit in respective sections for their candidate of choice, filling more sections than Biden’s supporters.
A Warren supporter, Tina Barlow, 36, from Lowell, Massachusetts, noted the lack of energy and effort coming from Biden, especially when compared to Warren. “Warren exudes an energy that is unlike any other candidate we will see tonight. Her energy is motivating, it is uniting, and it is clear that she has an unwavering plan of what she will do in office.”
When it comes to Biden, Barlow notes that his energy is lacking. “He sounds like every other old, white, politician. His stories seem out of touch and unrelatable. His plans are unexciting; it’s just more of the same. Warren is experienced in a similar way to Joe, but she’s still with it, she adapts to change while he seems stuck in the past with his old stories and old policies.”
Warren seems to exude energy unlike any other candidate on the stage and trumps Biden in this respect. Will his energy fall short for New Hampshire voters?
In attending a Breakfast with Bernie event in Manchester, New Hampshire, there were many passionate supporters and volunteers, who had a lot to say about their candidate of choice. Ray Blias, 27, of Concord, New Hampshire, discussed why Biden is not uniting enough and how this dramatically affects his chances going forward after Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Biden is not uniting enough, especially when compared to Bernie. Bernie appeals to working-class voters, minority voters, and young voters—he is bringing everyone together, more than any other candidate. Biden appeals to moderates, and that’s it. On the other hand, Bernie appeals to moderates, and even Republicans, as his policies are uniting society as a whole rather than a party or a wing of a party.”
Blias continued, noting that he believes Biden will fall short in New Hampshire the same way that he did in Iowa and that it is clear he didn’t have the support of everyone. “The support just isn’t there. Biden is focusing on his support of Black voters and thinks that will be enough to carry him in South Carolina, but it won’t be enough to win the nomination or win in November. Meanwhile, Bernie is capable of getting demographics that span greatly across different borders. He has the vote of young people, first-time voters, minorities, working-class voters, everyone really.”
It seems that according to supporters of the other frontrunners in Iowa, Biden is missing a lot. He is missing the “it” factor it takes to win over an entire nation. He is missing electability on this scale. He is missing energy, and freshness in his campaign. The other candidates, as stated by their supporters, believe that their preferred choices are more uniting, engaging, and a holistic representation of what America needs in their next president. Biden fell short of widespread support, and New Hampshire doesn’t look much better according to voters. Whether this will continue as primaries and caucuses progress on is to be determined.