Is Joe Biden Preparing to Lose In Iowa? His Campaign Says the Caucus Isn’t Must-Win

September 3, 2019, 7:12 PM UTC
Joe Biden speaks into a microphone in front of a crowd with an American flag in the background.
ROCK HILL, SC - AUGUST 29: Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College on August 29, 2019 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Biden has spent Wednesday and Thursday campaigning in the early primary state. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Sean Rayford–Getty Images

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden’s campaign argued Tuesday that his case for electability will still be strong even if he loses the first party contest.

A top Biden campaign official said the former vice president may not win the Iowa caucus, and the race likely will remain competitive far beyond the first four primaries and caucuses. The official and two others briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The official’s comment, effectively hedging for a potential loss in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest, is at odds with Biden’s repeated message to voters and interviewers in Iowa that the state holds “the key to the kingdom.” The official also said the campaign expects polls in early primary and caucus states — where Biden largely leads — to get tighter as more voters tune into the race.

The race will likely become a battle between three or four candidates, the official said. At the very least, a second official said, the former vice president’s campaign sees Biden along with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as likely to stay in the race well past Super Tuesday at the beginning of March.

The most recent Iowa caucus poll, conducted by Monmouth University and released Aug. 8, had Biden leading the race at 28%, with Warren in second at 19%. California Senator Kamala Harris had 11% and all other candidates were in single digits. Biden’s standing improved by 1 percentage point — well within the margin of error — compared with Monmouth’s previous poll, in April. Warren gained 12 points.

Biden’s aides also sought to lower expectations for a Biden showdown with Warren during the Sept. 12 presidential debate in Houston, the first time the two candidates will share a debate stage.

The third official said that while the media is attempting to frame the debate as a clash between Biden’s centrist views and Warren’s more progressive platform, that’s not how many voters look at the race. And, the official added, there won’t just be two candidates on the debate stage, there will be 10.

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