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Updated: 02/05/2020 01:18 PM EST

SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — Joe Biden is no longer denying his surprisingly weak performance in Iowa.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa,” Biden said Wednesday, before cracking a joke about Iowa’s botched caucuses.

“The whole process took a gut punch,” Biden said. “But look this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”

Biden’s admission marked a sharp departure from the rosy predictions that he and his campaign had been making about Iowa both before and after Monday’s caucus, where full results have still not been released. With 71 percent of precincts reporting, the former vice president is in fourth place.

Biden’s speech was one of the most fiery of his campaign as he went after the nominal winner in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor whom he accused of having too little experience.

Donors, supporters and even staff have grown increasingly nervous about Biden’s standing in the race because they fear he’ll finish badly in New Hampshire — where polls show he’s trailing Bernie Sanders — and in Nevada, where polls show he’s leading as of now.

“We can’t lose three straight like that,” a Biden adviser confided.

Just one day earlier, Biden and his campaign were predicting he would do well in Iowa, even as the campaign cast doubt on the process of tallying the votes.

“We had a good night last night in Iowa. I know you think that’s silly,” Biden said Tuesday at his first stop in Nashua, implicitly acknowledging the doubts about his performance while trying to reassure the crowd. “But everything we can feel, it’s good. Here’s the deal, we think we’re going to come out of there really doing well.”

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That night, in Concord, Biden joked that Iowa’s results would be so late that New Hampshire’s Feb. 11 vote would be decided beforehand.

Biden also downplayed his Iowa performance.

“The first four [states] are the key” Biden said, ignoring the fact that he once predicted he would carry the state.

Biden said he would accept the Iowa results, “as long as I come out of there with delegates and there’s been a full count.”

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