Biden could withstand a loss in Iowa because of his strength among minority voters in the more diverse states that follow it in the presidential nominating process, the aides said.
“We expect this to be a fight. We expect this to go for a while,” a senior campaign aide said during a call briefing reporters on Biden’s approach to the campaign this fall.
“Do we think we have to win Iowa? No. Do we want to win Iowa? Yes, we do,” the aide said. “We think we’re going to win; we know it’s going to be a dogfight. The same thing is true in New Hampshire.”
The aide said Biden’s campaign believes there will be “three or four” Democrats going deep into the race — specifically pointing to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as unlikely to depart early.
The comments are another indication that, though Biden for months has led national polls, the early-voting states — particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, where the electorates are whiter and organizing is key — present a unique challenge. His aides argued that Biden will be stronger in Nevada and South Carolina, the more diverse third and fourth states to vote, as well as on Super Tuesday.
“There is no way, no reason, that the nominee of this party should be decided before Nevada and South Carolina vote,” the aide said.
“We are now ramping up not just for Super Tuesday, but Super Tuesday and beyond. … We have no expectation, nor should anyone else, that this is going to end quickly after the first four, nor should it. I can’t see Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or others getting out. No one should expect us to, and we feel we’re going to be in a very dominant spot when all these different states get a chance to vote.”
Biden’s aides emphasized that he is the only candidate in the Democratic race with a diverse coalition of supporters — implying that the leading progressive contenders, Warren and Sanders, have so far failed to win over black and Latino voters.
A late-August Quinnipiac poll of Democratic primary voters in which Biden led nationally with 32% support to Warren’s 19% and Sanders’ 15% showed Biden with 46% support among black voters compared to 30% among white voters. Warren, meanwhile, was backed by 23% of white voters but 10% of black voters; Sanders saw a less stark drop in support from 14% of white voters to 10% of black voters.
“The Democratic Party is more than Twitter,” a senior aide said. “And it’s more than just a slice of the ideological spectrum. The Democratic Party represents a lot of interests. It’s older than people want to admit sometimes. It’s more ideologically diverse.”
His aides also downplayed the narrative of a Biden vs. Warren head-to-head contest.
That the two will stand on a debate stage next to each other for the first time in Houston next week is “is really irrelevant to the case that he’s making directly to voters,” a second senior campaign aide said.
Asked about areas of weakness, a Biden aide said the campaign is “not as strong among younger voters.” The same Quinnipiac poll showed Biden supported by just 10% of those between the ages of 18 and 34.
The aide identified gun control as among the most important issues to those younger voters, and said Biden has “the strongest record and case to make on guns.”
A senior Biden aide said the campaign believes that gaffes that receive press coverage are not damaging the former vice president with voters because “they know him, they trust him, they believe in him.”
“There’s a depth to Joe Biden’s standing in the public, which is much deeper and is much stronger than is typically acknowledged,” the aide said.