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Senior Adviser Anita Dunn On The State Of The Joe Biden Campaign


And I'm Ari Shapiro in Manchester, N.H. This state is the center of the political universe today, but the man who says he is best poised to beat Donald Trump has already left for South Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to lower expectations for today's primary. After he came in fourth in Iowa last week, he reorganized his campaign staff, elevating Anita Dunn. She is a veteran of the Obama White House and now a senior adviser on the Biden campaign.


ANITA DUNN: Oh, thank you, Ari. I have to say that Vice President Biden has actually not left the state yet.

SHAPIRO: He has canceled his event in Nashua, N.H., and plans to leave the state before results come in, if I'm not mistaken.

DUNN: No, actually, the event is not canceled. We're - the watch party for our volunteers and our supporters will be held tonight. Valerie Biden Owens, the vice president's sister, will be there tonight. And he'll be livestreaming in to talk to and thank our wonderful supporters in New Hampshire who worked so hard.

SHAPIRO: Why hasn't he decided to stay for the event?

DUNN: You know, this is a long game, Ari. And the next two contests - the second of the first four - are also critically important. And we decided that it made sense for the vice president to get a leg up on everyone else and to go to South Carolina to really remind people that this is a long process, a very - and it's a process where the candidate who has the support of the diverse coalitions of the Democratic Party is the candidate who ultimately will win the nomination. We believe Joe Biden is the candidate who has that diverse support. And...

SHAPIRO: Well...

DUNN: ...The second two states here, Nevada and South Carolina, are ones where candidates have to go and talk to different kinds of audiences. And that's a good place to be tonight.

SHAPIRO: You know, he has been saying for a while that the first four states should be taken as one. But the only...

DUNN: Yes.

SHAPIRO: ...Democrat ever to have secured the nomination without winning the first two states was Bill Clinton, who was on a steady upward trajectory in national polls. Joe Biden is going in the opposite direction in national polls. If he loses these first two states, can he really expect to rebound from that?

DUNN: Well, Ari, I'm going to differ a little with your history. Bill Clinton only won one of the first 11 states in 1992, as I think - if you go back, you'll see he only won one of 11 states. And it was a multi-candidate field much like this one. In a multi-candidate field, different candidates will win and lose depending on the demographics of their support and the geography of the primary map. What is important, though...

SHAPIRO: So do you expect him to come in first in Nevada, a state that is among the most diverse in the country?

DUNN: Well, Nevada and South Carolina are both very diverse. And as you pointed out, Ari, the first four...

SHAPIRO: I know he's expecting to do well in South Carolina, but Nevada comes first, a week from Saturday.

DUNN: Well, and we certainly are going to be competitive there, as I think we've always said we were going to be. But again, one individual state out of 50 does not actually dictate who wins the nomination. It's a long process. I - you know, I worked for Barack Obama in 2008. That was a nominating process that didn't end until June. So I think that people who are trying to decide that the nominating process is finished after two states are - you know, are jumping ahead.

There are a lot of good candidates. Vice President Biden is going to be competing not just in Nevada and South Carolina, but onward into Super Tuesday and a much broader, different and more diverse group of states throughout the United States.

SHAPIRO: Does he have the money to do that? The former...

DUNN: Yes, we...

SHAPIRO: ...Vice president began the year with the least amount of cash on hand, and their news report said the campaign is having to move money around for things like ad buys in South Carolina and Nevada.

DUNN: Well, I think we're not the only campaign that, as situations change, strategically move money around between different states. Some of our competitors have as well. So I think that looking at...

SHAPIRO: Are you saying the reports that donors are leaving are not true?

DUNN: Ari, what I'm saying is that we have the money to run the campaign that we need to run and that as we move forward, I think that what you will see is that more voices of more Democrats will get to be heard in this process - that deciding that this nomination is over or that candidates are out after a very small group of delegates, a very small group of Democrats have been heard from, is just not fair to the other Democrats in this country...

SHAPIRO: Just in our final moments, I do want to ask you...

DUNN: ..Who want to have a final - who want to have a voice here.

SHAPIRO: In our last moments, I want to ask you about something Biden said this morning on MSNBC when he was asked if Sanders can win a general election. Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN: I refuse to suggest any Democrat can lose. I think, you know, we could run Mickey Mouse against this president and have a shot.

SHAPIRO: If Biden is saying that Mickey Mouse can beat Donald Trump, doesn't that undermine his message? Why does the former vice president need to be the nominee in that case?

DUNN: Well, what Vice President Biden has also said throughout this campaign - it's not enough to just beat Donald Trump. And he actually said that this morning on "Morning Joe" as well. You also have got to take control of the United States Senate if we're going to be able to get these things done. If we're going to make progress on climate change...


DUNN: ...If we're actually going to be able to do these things, to do health care, then you...

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

DUNN: ...Actually have to have Congress as well. So that's the point, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Anita Dunn, senior adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign, appreciate your joining us.

DUNN: Thank you for having me, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.