Former Vice President Joe Biden is downplaying his chances of winning the Iowa Caucuses — more than five months before voters in the state are scheduled to go to the polls.
A cadre of Biden’s senior campaign advisers informed the press during a background briefing on Tuesday that the former vice president did not see Iowa, which holds the first contest of the 2020 race, as a must-win in his path toward the Democrat nomination.
“Do I think we have to win Iowa? No,” one adviser said, according to Politico, before adding the state was not “critical.”
The admission is surprising, as Biden has spent significant time courting voters in Iowa since announcing his candidacy. Although most of those trips resulted in bad press, due to the former vice president’s persistent gaffes, Biden showed no sign of giving up on the state. Just last week, his campaign launched a $497,000 ad buy in Iowa highlighting the former vice president’s electability.
Biden, himself, seemed to signal he was committed to winning Iowa as early as Monday, during an interview with NPR.
“I’ve learned you hold the key to the kingdom,” Biden said when asked how his recent trips to the state differed from those during his first two failed presidential bids. “If you can’t get out through Iowa, you can’t go any further.”
On Tuesday, Biden’s team attempted to paint the decision as pragmatic given the large field of candidates all jockeying for a strong showing in Iowa, which because of its large grassroots contingent has been known to favor outsiders and underdogs.
“We think we’re going to win,” the adviser said. “We think it’s going to be a dogfight. … But we think there are several candidates in this field, there’s probably three or four, that are going to go awhile.”
One of those includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), whom polls show has surpassed Biden for first place in Iowa. The Massachusetts Democrat has been gaining momentum in recent months and appears best poised to runaway with the nomination if Biden were to falter. Biden’s admission that Iowa is not “critical,” all but ensures that his campaign will allocate less resources to the state, ensuring victory for Warren or another candidate.
The former vice president’s team admitted as much on Tuesday when telling reporters they were “now ramping up for Super Tuesday and beyond.”
We feel we are going to be in a very dominant spot,” another adviser said when discussing the political landscape after the the first four early states.
Biden’s team also seemed to admit victory in New Hampshire, where the former vice president has been edged out by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), was not certain.
“As you all know, historically, there’s an incredible home field advantage for a Massachusetts candidate or a New Englander,” an adviser said while discussing New Hampshire first in the nation primary.
It is unclear if Biden’s wait for Super Tuesday strategy will pay off. Historically, no Democrat that has lost both of the first two nominating contests has gone on to win the nomination in recent memory.