Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Spencer Platt/Getty Staff, Joe Raedle/Getty Staff

MANCHESTER, N.H.— The political market is rendering two unambiguous trend lines: Mike Bloomberg's TV monopoly is fueling his surge into the top tier of Democratic presidential rivals, and cash-strapped Joe Biden is crashing.

State of play: The billionaire and former New York mayor is achieving a critical mass in national polls and capturing the attention of the media, establishment Democrats (and Republicans) and the betting market. And the former vice president is dropping in those same metrics.

The big picture: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are the candidates to beat today in New Hampshire — but beneath the surface, the Bloomberg and Biden trends are the ones to watch.

  • State polling and our conversations with voters and campaigns show Biden at risk of finishing here as low as fifth, behind Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. That could imperil the firewall he's always counted on from black voters in the South Carolina primary at the end of this month.
  • Bloomberg, who jumped in the race late, is skipping the first four states to focus on Super Tuesday and beyond.

A Quinnipiac University poll out Monday found "Biden no longer dominates on the key question of electability," with 27% of national Democratic or Dem-leaning voters giving Biden the best chance of beating President Trump — a steep drop from 44% just two weeks ago.

  • Sanders was second with 24%. Bloomberg was third with 17% — up from 9% in late January, and ahead of Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar.
  • Among black primary voters, the poll found Biden's lead has dropped to 27% from 51% in December, with Bloomberg jumping to the second spot, at 22%, slightly ahead of Sanders.

Meanwhile, the oddsmakers see Bloomberg in second among Democrats right now, behind Sanders.

  • Biden has tanked in the PredictIt online market, where his shares cost 43¢ on Jan. 8 and now go for 11¢. Bernie goes for 48¢, Mike for 28¢ and Pete is 14¢.

By the numbers: As Axios' Stef Kight and Alexi McCammond have reported, in Q4 Bloomberg outspent his Democratic rivals and Trump combined — and that's only going to grow.

What we're hearing: At a closing rally Monday night at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester, N.H., Biden told hundreds of supporters and potential supporters that he's the candidate Trump fears most.

  • But several in the audience who admire Biden and his policies said they're still undecided and had questions about his energy and electability after watching him in debates and after his disappointing results in Iowa.
  • "Anyone who can beat the current president, that's what I'm trying to gauge" said Tony Tortorici, 55. "And someone relatively centrist." He said he was leaning toward Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar because he wants "more youthful ideas" and Biden "doesn't seem as energized as I would like."
  • Rachel Chase, 44, said for her "it's between Biden and Bloomberg" because "I think they both have the most likelihood of beating Trump." She said she still leans Biden but has a growing unease.
  • "When he first came out, I thought he was going to be an easy in" but now "it just doesn't seem that way. I worry in these debates, whether he'll be able to do well against Trump."

One sign of hope for Bloomberg: Will Nickerson, 68, came to a Buttigieg rally in Milford, New Hampshire, just to see what it was like. He was a Republican for most of his life — except for the time he voted for Obama in 2008 — and he supported John Kasich in 2016. 

  • This year, he’s got his eye on Bloomberg. “Celebrity matters,” he said of what it would take to beat Trump. “At least Bloomberg can go toe-to-toe with Trump in terms of resources.” 

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters Monday morning that if this were the World Series, "I would say this is Game 2 and we're going all the way to Game 7."

  • She acknowledged Biden is "the underdog" in New Hampshire, but said the campaign is confident that "we have the resources that we need to compete" through Super Tuesday and beyond.
  • She said many Democrats have the “perception” that “Bloomberg is trying to buy his way to the nomination.”

Between the lines: Money is a big X factor in the Democratic contest, but it cuts both ways.

  • Wins fuel donations — that's helping Sanders and Buttigieg. Losses shake donor confidence. Biden needs money to keep going.
  • The self-funded Bloomberg is immune from those forces. But with an anti-billionaire message at the core of Sanders' campaign, it's an open question whether the same wealth that has propelled Bloomberg's unorthodox candidacy could be an inherent disqualifier for too many primary voters.

Go deeper:

Bloomberg's Super Tuesday splurge

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