As Joe Biden meandered through a speech at the front of an old theater in Manchester, Terry Shumaker, a fixture of New Hampshire politics, walked around with his tweed-blazer pocket full of old buttons from the candidate’s 1988 presidential campaign. He’d had three bags left over from 30 years ago, but he was starting to run out, he said. They were collector’s items. It was the Saturday morning before the primary—and it seemed like there were about to be Biden 2020 pins to collect.
T. J. Ducklo, Biden’s press secretary, worked his way through the reporters shoved into a corner of the room. He’s never been part of a campaign before, and was essentially unknown in the political world before taking this job. The press corps was happy to see Ducklo—he’d announced in December that he’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, at age 31 with no history of smoking. But he’d pushed himself back onto the trail for Iowa and New Hampshire. Some reporters asked each other whether, at this point, his return was worth it.
Ducklo sidled up to the reporters, one by one, with the same mischievous smile. “Have you seen the video?” he’d say. “You gotta watch the video.” And then he’d stand and wait for each reporter to pull it up on his or her phone: a one-minute-and-40-second-long ad that snarkily compared Biden’s record with Pete Buttigieg’s. “Both Vice President Biden and former Mayor Buttigieg have taken on tough fights: Under threat of a nuclear Iran, Joe Biden helped to negotiate the Iran deal,” the narrator says. “Under threat of disappearing pets, Buttigieg negotiated lighter licensing regulations on pet-chip scanners.”