WEST DES MOINES, Iowa—The Friday night before the Iowa caucus, John Kerry was standing on the sidewalk in front of Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters, wearing a bomber jacket and a pale-blue scarf, insisting that everything was about to snap into place for the former vice president. That’s why so many people were going into the caucus saying they were undecided, he argued.
“Some people have been torn between the idea of, you know, new, fresh, whatever, versus somebody with experience, and they're trying to wrestle with it,” he told me. “But I think in the end, people are now coming to the conclusion Joe Biden is best situated to win, best situated to contest in areas where we need to bring congressmen and senators with us.”
Two days later, Kerry was caught musing on a telephone call about what it would take to get him to jump into the race himself. The voting hadn’t even happened yet.
Biden and his aides have long insisted that they were totally fine with how few people were showing up to see him. They were not. They tried to fill the rooms. It didn’t work. They learned to accept that the crowds would never come, and tried to build a campaign around never getting them.
Neither the disaster of the Iowa Democrats’ caucus app nor the reporting delays change the reality: The former vice president of the United States and the front-runner in nearly all the national and Iowa polls came in a distant fourth, behind Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren. Now he must struggle to reassert himself and hope for a magical underdog story (hey, Bill Clinton turned himself into the Comeback Kid after placing second in the 1992 New Hampshire primary). But forget about advertising and campaign staff: It’s now an open question whether Biden will have the cash to pay for his charter plane to fly him around the 14 Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3.