Former Vice President Joe Biden campaign is redeploying resources ahead of the second phase of early voting states, moving nearly 50 staffers into Nevada and South Carolina in a critical stretch for the campaign.
Staffing changes will also include moving some people to Nevada and South Carolina from Super Tuesday states -- perhaps a new sign of the fragility of the campaign, and their concern about making it beyond the first four voting states following underwhelming finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Following the move, the number of staffers on the ground for Biden in Nevada will grow to more than 130, and more than 60 in South Carolina.
A source familiar with the Biden campaign’s thinking said the decision to move the staff came together in the last 24 to 48 hours.
"As Vice President Biden has made clear, we have yet to hear from the most committed constituencies in the Democratic Party -- people of color -- and Nevada and South Carolina are the first opportunities for that to happen," said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden. "The strategic and most effective use of our team is to focus their energy and talents in these two states that reflect the base of the Democratic Party and Joe Biden's strengths."
The campaign said the move is a strategic calculation, hoping that a surge in resources in the last two early voting states will help solidify a strong relaunch for the campaign in states that are more reflective of the country’s electorate.
While Biden had long cast doubt on his ability to win the first two voting contests in the 2020 race, his fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively, have put the pressure on the campaign to deliver on their promise that the former vice president is the candidate who can build a diverse coalition of support in the 2020 race -- a gamble they are leaning into significantly.
African American voters are critical to gaining traction -- the largely Democratic voting base is expected to make up 12.5% of the electorate in 2020, according to Pew Research Center.
Nevada, the first contest in the West, has a diverse population -- Latinos account for 29% of the state’s makeup, while African Americans, Asian Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders make up 10% each.
In South Carolina, the first primary state in the South, blacks make up nearly 30% of the population and more than 60% of the primary electorate.
"I want y’all to think of a number -- 99.9%. That's the percentage of African American voters who have not yet had a chance to vote in America. One more number, 99.8. That's the percent of Latino voters who haven’t had a chance to vote," Biden told a crowd in South Carolina Tuesday night, following his early departure from New Hampshire on primary night.
"So, when you hear all these pundits and experts, cable TV talkers, talk about the race, tell them, 'It ain't over, man. We're just getting started. Our votes count, too," he said.