Joe Biden risks a humiliating third- or fourth-place finish in Iowa early next year, according to nearly a dozen senior Democrats in the state who attribute the prospect to what they see as a poorly organized operation that has failed to engage with voters and party leaders.

With fewer than 100 days until the Feb. 3 caucuses, Biden is failing to spend the time with small groups of voters and party officials that Iowans expect, and his campaign's outreach has been largely ineffective, according to 11 senior Democrats in the state. That could send Biden to a crippling loss behind Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, who have highly organized campaigns in Iowa, said the Democrats, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign.

Biden didn't join the 2020 presidential race until April, months after his rivals had set up camp and secured the most sought-after hires. He entered as the front-runner, a position that has slowly eroded as Warren's and Buttigieg's standings have risen. Recent polls have Warren tied with Biden, and one survey shows Buttigieg in third place in the state.

Even though Biden told reporters in Iowa last week that he was "working like hell" to win, Democrats there say he has a lot of ground to make up.

"I think it's fair to say if action isn't taken soon, you're going to find that a person who was 7 or 14 points behind Biden will be breathing down his neck or actually ahead of him," said Kurt Meyer, chairman of the Mitchell County Democratic Party. "There's still time … but action needs to be taken."

A defeat in Iowa wouldn't end the Biden campaign. He is heavily favored in South Carolina, the fourth contest of the nominating season, but it would slice into his chief argument — that he's best suited to beat President Donald Trump.

The Biden campaign said it is confident in the strength of its Iowa operation, issuing a statement saying Biden has about 70 endorsements, with dozens more forthcoming. It also said that surrogates such as his wife, Jill, and Iowa officials have campaigned strongly on the candidate's behalf.

"The baseline here is we feel really good about what we're doing," said Pete Kavanaugh, Biden's deputy campaign manager. "We're laser-focused on two things: Recruiting volunteers and precinct captains and talking to voters."

The size of Biden's operation in the state is on a par with his chief rivals. He has 22 offices and about 100 staff on the ground. Buttigieg has 21 field offices and more than 100 staff, and expects to have 130 people there by this week. Warren's campaign has 19 field offices and more than 100 people.