Next to the Democratic Party itself – whose Iowa caucuses turned into a debacle – the biggest loser in Iowa was former Vice President Joe Biden.

In the final results, which as of this writing still have not been made public, it looks like Biden is going to end up in a dismal fourth place, with only 13 percent of the vote.

Apparently, when these numbers were leaked by the Des Moines Register, Biden’s Iowa staffers were stunned, according to a person familiar with discussions among several aides at the time.

“None of us thought we were at 13 percent,” the unnamed person said. “We can’t be in fourth place. That just cannot be right.”

But it was right. And it confirmed what rival campaigns had whispered for months — Biden wasn’t inspiring Iowa voters and his support was only inches-deep.

While the full Iowa caucus results still aren’t in, Biden’s unexpectedly weak performance, has provoked frustration and recriminations within the campaign, according to interviews with more than a dozen campaign aides and surrogates.

Outside the campaign, Biden’s Iowa train wreck revived questions about the durability of his candidacy, and threatened to slow a fundraising operation that was already showing signs of stress.

“We had precinct captains who didn’t know how to run a caucus. And a few didn’t even show. We lost friggin’ people on the second ballot of voting in the caucus. Someone’s head had to roll,” said a top-level Biden campaign staffer Wednesday.

And, Biden himself did not help his cause, by quickly turning on the process and on his rivals. Facing questions about his campaign’s viability, Joe Biden escalated his criticism of his top Democratic rivals on Wednesday, suggesting both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg were risky choices for a party desperate for a return to the White House.

Biden conceded that he was disappointed by his sagging performance in the leadoff Iowa caucuses, calling it a “gut punch” for his campaign. As he turned his attention to New Hampshire, he sought to reenergize his campaign by drawing sharper contrasts with those who led in Iowa, including casting Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist — as a drag on others in the party.

“If Sen. Sanders is the nominee for the party, every Democrat in America up and down the ballot, in blue states, red states, purple states and easy districts and competitive ones, every Democrat will have to carry the label Sen. Sanders has chosen for himself,” Biden said.

Biden was equally blunt about his assessment of Buttigieg, saying he didn’t think the Democrats’ standard-bearer against President Donald Trump should be someone who hasn’t been elected to a higher office than mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city of about 100,000.

“It’s a risk, to be just straight up with you,” he said.

An obviously frustrated Biden, then lashed out at the credibility of the voting process, and he may have made things even worse by dramatically questioning the validity of the results even once they are announced.

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