Elizabeth Warren campaign shows warning signs after New Hampshire primary loss

Elizabeth Warren’s straggling campaign is cutting ad buys worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in key early states after bruising losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The retrenchment follows a dismal fourth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, down from third place in Iowa.

“We were hoping for a better result in New Hampshire,” Warren’s campaign conceded in an email to supporters Wednesday. “It hurts to care so much, work so hard, and still fall a little short.”

The campaign has cut more than $300,000 worth of ads in Nevada and South Carolina, according to two advertising trackers. The Massachusetts U.S. senator appears to be shifting her focus to Maine, with ad buys worth tens of thousands of dollars there on Wednesday, according to FCC filings.

Her New Hampshire finish behind U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has also raised concerns about whether Warren can sustain the national organizing effort her campaign is relying on for success on Super Tuesday on March 3.

“She put her eggs in a New Hampshire basket. That was the right thing to do, but it didn’t pan out,” said Democratic strategist Scott Ferson. “She’s entering a period of darkness and belt tightening and hard choices about options.”

Warren’s campaign was starting to refocus on Super Tuesday — 14 states, including Massachusetts, which will award 34% of the delegates — even before polls closed in New Hampshire. But a strategy memo released Tuesday was more notable for its jabs at her opponents’ perceived weaknesses.

“Every campaign always has room for adjustments,” said former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan, a Warren surrogate. “I’m sure they’re talking about that now and figuring out how to best get her message out.”

Surrogates and supporters cite Warren’s extensive organizing network — more than 1,000 staff on the ground in 31 states and Washington, D.C. — as a major part of her path forward.

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, a former Warren staffer and presidential campaign surrogate, said, “Staff in Iowa and New Hampshire have already been redeployed to new locations, just firming up other states, including the Super Tuesday lineup and even beyond.”

But Warren’s much-lauded ground game has now failed her twice, making it harder to generate the millions of dollars needed to sustain her massive operation, strategists say. Warren entered 2020 with $13.7 million in the bank and raised more than $2 million before Tuesday. But her campaign also spent $12 million more than it took in at the end of 2019, FEC reports show.

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