The plane took off as voters continued to go to the polls in New Hampshire. On board was Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, who minutes earlier had abruptly announced the cancellation of his party for election night in that northeastern state.
The ex-vice president was thus giving up the battle and in a desperate gesture to keep the guy going he headed to South Carolina, a southern state where he still has a chance of winning the February 29th primary.
“We are still slightly hopeful here in New Hampshire. And we’ll see what happens. We’re going to South Carolina,” he told reporters with little conviction before taking off.
After the collapse in the Iowa caucuses, where he finished fourth, the bad omens in New Hampshire were confirmed yesterday: in just a few days Biden had gone from leading in the polls to finishing fifth, with just 8.5% of the vote.
That is far behind Senator Bernie Sanders and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who came out stronger from the first two stops in the race, and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.
Biden’s campaign insists that the importance of these first two states is excessive and distorts the race, as their predominantly white and rural character is not a reflection of 21st century America.
Biden, 77, sees himself as representing the growing diversity and racial heterogeneity of the country, and he continues to claim the legacy of his “friend” Barack Obama, with whom he was vice president from 2009 to 2017.
“It can never be Obama. Obama was new, fresh, black, energetic. Biden is not,” Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science at Iowa State University, told Efe.
If the country has changed, so has the Democratic Party itself.
Biden must confront an internal adversary that was unsuspected just a decade ago: the explosive rise of the left-most wing within the party, embodied by Senators Sanders and Warren.
They accuse the former vice president of lacking the courage to stand up to established powers, such as the Wall Street financier, and of not wanting to make the structural changes the country needs.
Concern within Biden’s campaign is growing over his poor performance and how he has been overtaken by much lesser-known candidates who are fighting him for the path of moderation within the Democratic Party, such as Klobuchar and Buttigieg.
The next appointments are South Carolina, where the African-American vote is crucial; and Nevada, where one in five voters is Latino.
So it will be all or nothing for the former vice president.
Besides the growing doubts, Biden must overcome historical precedents. Only one candidate in the last 40 years managed to get to the White House without winning in Iowa and New Hampshire: Bill Clinton in 1992.
“It would be a mistake for anyone to write us off before people of color have a say in this election. People of color–Black people, Latino voters–are the foundation of this party,” explained Symone Sanders, Biden’s adviser, in an interview on the Fox Network.