Biden shuffles campaign leadership after 4th-place finish

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Somersworth, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Joe Biden is reorganizing his top presidential campaign leadership after a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, elevating Anita Dunn to a role that effectively puts her in charge of his third White House bid.

Two people with knowledge of the decision confirmed that Dunn, once the top communications aide in President Barack Obama’s White House, would take on an elevated role, but that campaign manager Greg Schultz would retain his title. One of the people told The Associated Press that Dunn will have final decision-making authority. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign strategy.

The New York Times first reported that Dunn would take on a new role, citing an email sent Friday from Schultz and longtime Biden aide Steve Ricchetti to the campaign staff and some key supporters.

Dunn, Ricchetti and Schultz didn't immediately respond to requests for comment by the AP.

News of the change broke hours before Biden takes the stage Friday evening for a debate in New Hampshire, where the former vice president spent the days since Monday’s Iowa caucuses taking a much more aggressive posture against some of his top rivals. It also comes just days before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Senior campaign aides told reporters Friday in a predebate call that the personnel shifts should not be read as panic or an adjustment in Biden’s well-established strategy to lean heavily on primaries and caucuses that, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, have racially diverse electorates. Aides notes that Dunn already was among the senior leadership team before Friday.

Still, the shift is nonetheless a tacit acknowledgment that fourth place, even in overwhelmingly white states, is damaging to Biden’s prospects looking ahead to the Feb. 22 Nevada caucuses, the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary and the March 3 “Super Tuesday” slate.

Biden has led most national polls of Democratic primary voters since joining the race in April. But he’s faced persistent doubts about the quality of his campaign operation in the early nominating states, and his fundraising has lagged other leading contenders.