Even as some New Hampshire voters are still casting ballots in the first-in-the-nation primary, former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to leave the Granite State to head for South Carolina Tuesday night.
The departure -- ahead of when results are made official -- is perhaps a sign of the veteran lawmaker's expected potentially poor showing in New Hampshire and the campaign's gamble on a more diverse coalition of voters in South Carolina boosting his presidential bid.
"Look, we got a lot of good friends here in New Hampshire but this race isn’t over... you got significant portions of the electorate who haven’t voted yet. And I’m going to head to South Carolina tonight and I’m going to go to Nevada as I’ve said from the beginning, we gotta look at them all, " Biden told reporters from inside a Dunkin Donuts in Manchester, New Hampshire. "And I’m feeling good about that, we’ve got a lot of great friends here who have helped us a lot. We’re still mildly hopeful here in New Hampshire. And we’ll see what happens.”
When pressed by ABC News why he was leaving Tuesday night and what message that sent to voters in New Hampshire still making up their minds as they head to the polls, Biden reiterated that he felt it was time to head down South.
"I gotta get to South Carolina — I was planning on leaving," he said. " Today I’m going down to South — I gotta get to Nevada after that, so I’m going to South Carolina and to Nevada, and I’ve said from the beginning I’m going to do that."
He has other campaign surrogates in New Hampshire who will stay for the results.
Biden has long touted South Carolina as a ‘firewall’ for his campaign, but pushed back on the notion that South Carolina is do or die for his campaign.
“No I don’t think so. Look, remember, when everybody talks about how everybody won before. Clinton lost the first 9 events, won one, won in Iowa went on to win the nomination. Look the rest of the nation is out there. There’s an awful lot of electoral votes to be had, and we’re gonna see. I think we’re going to do well in Nevada and in South Carolina, and we’ll go from there. We’ll see,” Biden said.
But on Monday, his campaign signaled what they see as South Carolina's critical importance to his presidential prospects underscoring that the real game in their view comes into view when more diverse states start to have their say.
“The path to the nomination for Joe Biden runs through South Carolina, Nevada, and Super Tuesday,” senior campaign adviser Kate Bedingfield told reporters on Monday.
“This is Game 2, and we’re going all the way to Game 7,” she said. “He’s been very clear he’s the underdog here.”
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. In South Carolina, the first primary state in the South, blacks make up nearly 30% of the population and more than 60 percent of the primary electorate.
By comparison, New Hampshire is more than 90% white.
Meanwhile, outside a polling station in Manchester on Tuesday morning, Biden tried to reassure supporters that he is not writing off the state.
“We’re gonna stay all day and fight for every vote we have and then we’re heading down to South Carolina,” Biden told reporters while pouring coffee and passing out donuts to a group of supporters gathered outside.
Asked by ABC News how he plans to rebuild his campaign’s momentum, Biden said his campaign has plenty.
"It’s not about rebuilding momentum, it's about keeping it going,” Biden said.