“I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” Joe Biden told a crowd this afternoon in New Hampshire, but earlier his campaign was doing its best to obfuscate it. As John noted earlier, his spokespeople spent considerable effort trying to cast doubts on his shockingly poor performance in Iowa. On Tuesday, Team Biden’s deputy campaign manager spoke of “significant concerns” over the reliability of the results being reported in pieces that afternoon. As recently as this morning, Biden’s campaign was still emphasizing the partial nature of the results and making comments about the “integrity” of the process.

By this afternoon, though, Biden apparently figured that dancing around the problem was only making it worse. Better to rip off the bandage all at once, and then use it as a challenge to do better — or so Biden spun it today, while still also squeezing in a complaint about “the process”:

BIDEN: Folks, I’m here, to put it in [garbled] Shaheen’s words, to ask for your support. I’m here to say that every single solitary vote is going to matter in this primary. You know, ah, we, ah, twenty-four hours later, they’re still trying to figure out what happened in Iowa. [Laughs] At this rate, New Hampshire will be the first in the country to get to vote.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it, we took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch. But look, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down. Unlike Donald Trump and many of you here, I’ve never been given anything in my life except great parents with great values. None of you have been handed anything just on a silver platter.

“Unlike Donald Trump and many of you here“? Forget it, he’s rolling. The point of this admission is to take some ownership of his poor performance … but only some. Around the same time Biden talked about gut-punches, the campaign fired its top Iowa field-operations official, Adrienne Bogen. Politico’s sources in BidenWorld made it clear that they’re laying the blame at her feet rather than any weakness of the candidate himself:

Adrienne Bogen, who headed field operations for Biden, will not stay on the campaign, even as other members of senior leadership were asked to head to other early states or to assist in Super Tuesday operations.

According to several sources within the campaign, Bogen is the first staff casualty following Biden’s disappointing showing in the state.

“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.

Some of the precinct tallies from election night showed Biden losing support after the first alignment, a sign of weak support or poorly trained precinct captains or both.

Well, to be fair, that’s tough to deny. CNN gave us this look on Monday at one of Biden’s precinct captains, who tried to attract more caucusers by suggesting that, er, Biden could be dead soon and his running mate would be awesome:

So yeah, the campaign might have had a talent deficiency. But whose fault is that? And what does it say about Team Biden’s prospects in other states, where he’s expected to do much better than he was expected to perform in Iowa?