Joe Biden is about to have a VERY long 18 days

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters in Columbia, South Carolina, following the New Hampshire primary.

Long before the polls close in New Hampshire on Tuesday night — 8 p.m. Eastern if you are wondering — Joe Biden was gone from the Granite State.

He left New Hampshire in the late afternoon Tuesday to fly to South Carolina, the state that he has repeatedly called his “firewall.”

Here’s the problem for Biden: The South Carolina primary is not until February 29 — 18 days from now.

There will be one vote between Wednesday and then (the Nevada caucuses on February 22) and two debates (one February 19 in Las Vegas, the other February 25 in Charleston). Those are rightly understood as oases in the broader political desert that sprawls out before Biden right now.

While there’s little question that Biden will stay in the race through South Carolina, it’s also true that he will do so facing two constant questions each of the next 18 days:

1) Are you going to drop out?

2) Are you out of money?

Neither of those questions is what Biden or his campaign wants to talk about. But after a fourth-place finish in Iowa and something similar expected in New Hampshire tonight, it’s hard to imagine the conversation around Biden being about anything else.

And that will be his biggest hurdle between now and the end of the month. Because he is going to South Carolina on Tuesday evening to turn the page, to say that Iowa and New Hampshire don’t really matter — and that the race will begin anew on Wednesday.

But if past is prologue, that is simply not true. Momentum matters — and voters like to be with a winner. The coverage of the race — rightly — changes based on the first votes, and that has a demonstrated effect on voter preference.

Is it possible that Biden’s base in the black community in South Carolina (and in other later-voting states) is unconcerned with what has happened — and the way the race will be covered post-Iowa and New Hampshire? Sure! But it would be the exception, not the rule.

The Point: Biden will almost certainly make it to South Carolina. He’s set his mind on it. But what state will his campaign be in come February 29?