“If Biden gets a third in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, at that point donors are going to abandon you,” a veteran Iowa Democratic strategist told the Washington Examiner, who said polling indicates this was a plausible scenario.

“At that point there’s going to be an emergence of an alternative. If I were a betting man, I’d say Biden gets third in the first three states. I think Biden’s people are punting at this point. And in Iowa here, it seems like they’re just going through the motions and playing for second place.”

Since Warren’s rise in the polls, the Biden campaign has been tempering expectations in multiple donor meetings and in interviews with journalists. “Do we think we have to win Iowa? No. Do we want to win Iowa? Yes, we do,” a Biden aide said in a September phone call with reporters. “We think we’re going to win; we know it’s going to be a dogfight. The same thing is true in New Hampshire.”