DES MOINES — Days before Iowa Democrats went to their precinct caucuses, the news dropped like a bomb.

Leaked poll numbers from what would have been the final Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed Joe Biden in fourth place with 13 percent.

Biden’s Iowa staffers were floored, according to a person familiar with discussions among several aides at the time.

“None of us thought we were at 13 percent,” the 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 inch-deep.

While the full Iowa caucus results still aren’t in, Biden’s unexpectedly weak performance Monday — he’s in fourth place with 16 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting — has provoked frustration and recriminations within the campaign, according to interviews with more than a dozen campaign aides and surrogates.

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