Merrimack, New Hampshire — A day after acknowledging that an apparent fourth place finish in the Iowa Caucuses had been a 'gut punch' for his campaign, Vice President Joe Biden was off the campaign trail on Thursday, as his main Democratic rivals had the field to themselves and urged voters to stick with them in Tuesday's crucial first-in-the-nation primary.
Asked about Biden's contention that his avowed support for more liberal policies would put him at a disadvantage against President Donald Trump in November, Bernie Sanders shrugged off Biden's criticism.
"Let me tell my good friend Joe, that when we are dealing with someone like Donald Trump - who lies all the time - he will pin any label on any candidate," Sanders told reporters. "It doesn't really matter."
As Sanders held a news conference at his New Hampshire headquarters to declare that he was the true winner of the Iowa Caucuses, Biden was meeting with advisers on Thursday, with no campaign events scheduled until Friday's night's final New Hampshire debate, just three days before this state's key primary.
While Sanders declared victory in the Iowa Caucuses on Thursday, Pete Buttigieg - who also claimed victory back on Monday - met with veterans at an American Legion Hall, and proclaimed that he had momentum from his strong finish in Iowa.
"We are absolutely electrified by the energy that we are coming here with," Buttigieg said in Merrimack, New Hampshire, as his campaign said the Iowa results had brought a new surge of donations to the South Bend, Indiana mayor's campaign for the White House.
"It has been an extraordinary week," Buttigieg told the audience, so packed into a small venue that a number of reporters, television crews, and still photographers were turned away at the door, because there was no more room.
Buttigieg only made one seeming reference to Sanders during remarks and question and answer session with vets.
"I'm skeptical - within the Democratic Party - that it's either a revolution, or you're for the status quo," Buttigieg said when asked about trade policy.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren drew a crowd of over 500 people in Derry, New Hampshire, as she pressed supporters to spread her message around the Granite State in these final days.
"The danger is real," Warren said of President Trump's administration. "Our democracy hangs in the balance."
Even with a seeming home field advantage - since she lives next door in Massachusetts - Warren has been lagging in some polls, but she disputed any idea that her campaign was in trouble.
"I'm going to be here in New Hampshire, and all across this nation," Warren told reporters after her rally, brushing off questions about the continuing vote count from the Iowa Caucuses, where it appears she finished a distant third behind Sanders and Buttigieg.
"I'm not focused on Iowa now," Warren said. "I'm focused on moving forward."
Warren did have to weigh in on a story from inside her campaign in Nevada, after six minority women quit her campaign, with some complaining that they had little impact on issues of personal concern.
Warren did not dodge the question, telling reporters she believed the complaints.
"I apologize," Warren said.
Seven Democratic candidates will gather tonight in Manchester for the next debate: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.
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