Two quick clarifications, right off the top: First, we're talking about the first four primary and caucus states, of course. Second, Biden technically holds a nominal lead in Iowa, in addition to his dominant advantage in South Carolina -- but he's very much in the "statistical tie" zone, in a state that's notoriously difficult to poll ahead of its famous caucuses. These do not look like the numbers of a man who's currently in a position to waltz to the nomination, despite his persistent national lead:
CBSYouGov polls: IA: Biden 29, Sanders 26, Warren 17. NH: Warren 27, Biden 26, Sanders 25. NV: Sanders 29, Biden 27, Warren 18. SC: Biden 43, Sanders 18, Warren 14. All in all, a fine set of #s for Sanders. Good, not awesome for Warren. Biden? Ok. https://t.co/q61fIr3s3v pic.twitter.com/OSb4DKZHe2— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) September 8, 2019
As Enten says, Team Bernie has to be pretty pleased with this data set from CBS. Their man is essentially tied for the lead in the Hawkeye State, is running even with two top competitors in the Granite State, is ahead by a nose in the Silver State, and is in second place in the Biden stronghold of the Palmetto State. We're still ages away from any votes being cast, but if these contests remain tight dog fights in early 2020, enthusiasm and ground game will be very significant factors. Warren's operation may be the field's strongest in Iowa, but Bernie has a trove of 2016 supporters' contact information, and frequently demonstrated his prowess in caucuses against the establishment-backed Hillary Clinton. As for the enthusiasm issue, Grandpa Joe is facing some challenges on that front:
When Joe Biden took the stage in New Hampshire, he was greeted with the respect that comes with being a former vice president. Some of his closest rivals were greeted more like rock stars. The scene at New Hampshire’s Democratic convention on Saturday highlighted one of the riddles of Biden’s candidacy: He maintains a lead in nearly every poll, but his campaign events often lack the look and feel of a front-runner. His crowds are warm, but rarely high-energy. His organization is solid, but doesn’t always show up in force at key events that help shape the perceptions of political power brokers.
One of Joe Biden’s most high-profile supporters in New Hampshire warned the candidate during a one-on-one exchange Friday that he and his campaign need to make immediate changes to win the first-in-the-nation primary. Lou D’Allesandro, the longest-serving state senator and highest-ranking elected official in the state who’s endorsed Biden, spoke with the candidate before a town hall event here. D’Allesandro was blunt in his advice: Listen more. Talk less. Answer succinctly. Get your campaign operation organized... D'Allesandro, who is known as the lion of New Hampshire’s senate, was so concerned he drove more than an hour to get a word in with Biden.... Other prominent Democrats in the state agreed with the state senator’s overall critique of Biden, and noted his campaign appears less than organized. For example, key local Democrats were not sent invitations to Friday’s event. “Some of their events are a cluster f--k,” said a senior Democratic party member who is uncommitted in the primary and asked for anonymity to speak candidly. Some Biden supporters in Iowa have similar concerns about the candidate and his operation.
D'Allesandro urged Biden to get more "focused" and "succinct," but neither of those adjectives are typically associated with the former Vice President. Even more so recently. Politico smells some blood in the water, as do Biden's opponents, who are reportedly game-planning for a coming collapse:
“There’s a clear worry among Biden supporters that he can’t be the front-runner from June of 2019 through July of 2020 … that eventually, the gaffes will pile up and he’ll come down,” said Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and one of Biden’s most vocal supporters. Many of Biden’s supporters, said Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, are “nervous as hell."... "It’s a deceptive lead, because it really doesn’t get tested until we get down to a narrower race in which, at some stage, people are going to have to say, ‘Is he our guy or not?’” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean.
Now, we can't ignore that several of Trump's primary competitors similarly banked on an implosion that simply never materialized, so it's a risky strategy. And the Politico story points out that thus far, "Biden has proved the skeptics wrong. He’s kept pace in the money race, although he lags significantly behind Warren and Sanders in online fundraising. And public support he held before announcing his candidacy — once viewed mainly as affinity for a former statesman and broad name recognition, not an electoral preference — hasn’t faded." Neither of those factors is insignificant. I'll leave you with the latest foible from a campaign we haven't been hearing much about lately. If you're going to acknowledge your candidate's undeniable "summer slump," it's best not to write it down in a memo that you accidentally leave in a restaurant:
A briefing memo accidentally left behind at a restaurant showed Kamala Harris’ staff expected her to be grilled on her lack of presence in the state as well as her campaign’s “summer slump” https://t.co/zXwrVBAvui— POLITICO (@politico) September 9, 2019