DES MOINES — Iowa’s caucus-reporting meltdown was painful. But another grenade from Monday night, just beyond the line of sight, may be just as consequential.
For more than a year, Democrats have been preparing for high turnout in 2020, powered by an electorate juiced by rage against President Donald Trump. But in their first test of the year, early data suggested Tuesday that turnout was “on pace for 2016,” the Iowa Democratic Party said, far below levels many observers predicted.
In other words: Democrats were counting on Barack Obama-levels of enthusiasm. They got Hillary Clinton numbers, instead.
Looking at the low turnout estimate in Des Moines late Monday night, an adviser to one candidate said simply, “Wow.”
The turnout statistics are not final and were referenced only briefly, tucked into an Iowa Democratic Party statement about the reporting fiasco just as it began swirling out of control.
“What we know right now is that around 25% of precincts have reported, and early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016,” the party’s communications director, Mandy McClure, said in a prepared statement.
If that number holds, turnout will run only to about 170,000 people, well below the 240,000 who participated in the caucuses in 2008.
“It’s an enthusiasm gap,” said Michael Ceraso, who worked for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign and was Pete Buttigieg’s New Hampshire director before leaving the campaign last year.
Since the start of the campaign, a critical part of the candidates’ electability-based appeals had been a promise that they were uniquely suited to rouse an unreliable electorate in the fall.
The lesson from Monday, Ceraso said, is that “None of these candidates right now are inspiring what they’re claiming they’re inspiring.”
Chris Adcock, chairwoman of Democratic Party in southwest Iowa‘s Page County, said in a text message that “our team was REALLY surprised turnout was no better than 2016.”
And it wasn’t just the turnout totals that were worrisome for Democrats. It was the makeup of the electorate.
Entrance polls showed first-time caucus-goers down this year, to about one-third of all caucus-goers. That fell lower not only than 2008, when nearly 60 percent of caucus-goers were first-time participants, but also 2016.
It was a deflating acknowledgment for a party that is desperate to register and turn out first-time voters in the fall.
If they could do it any year, this would seem to be it. Turnout had surged in the 2018 midterm elections, fueling a strong year for Democrats. And party officials believed that if they could maintain that momentum in 2020, they could not only defeat Trump, but make additional gains in Congress and in the nation’s state houses.
In Iowa, the conditions for high turnout were especially ripe. Not only were Democrats anxious about Trump, but the state’s early date on the primary calendar meant a large number of candidates were still in the hunt — many of them with their own aggressive turnout operations in the state. Party officials expanded the number of caucus sites in some counties and booked larger rooms.
Then, if the turnout numbers hold, they watched them fail to fill up.
In Iowa, Democrats offered any number of reasons for the ho-hum showing. Caucus night was cold. People were still weary after Super Bowl parties the night before. In one county, a high school basketball game drew potential caucus-goers away.
Jeff Link, a Democratic strategist in Iowa who predicted before the caucuses that turnout expectations may have been unrealistically high, suspected many undecided voters stayed home. With an unusually large field of candidates, it is “hard to commit three hours” to caucus, he said, “if you aren’t sure who you stand for.”
Tracy Freese, the Democratic Party chairwoman in Grundy County, said Tuesday that “the field’s so split, so there is hope that once we get one [nominee], whoever that might be, maybe the interest will solidify.”
However, she said, “I’m worried about picking a candidate that’s going to do it, because if you’re not jazzed, I think [turnout] speaks to being jazzed about the candidate.”
For the purposes of the presidential primary’s outcome, the caucus result itself will hardly matter. With the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump’s likely acquittal in his impeachment trial on Wednesday, a Democratic presidential debate on Friday and the New Hampshire primary the following week, the Iowa Democratic Party’s inability to deliver a timely caucus result sapped the caucuses’ eventual winner of much of the momentum he or she might have gained.
But as a measure of Democratic enthusiasm, low turnout could prove significant. And for defenders of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, less-than-inspiring turnout will do nothing to help their cause.
Freese described an orderly — and secure — caucusing experience in her county on Monday night. But caucusing can be difficult, she said, and that can keep some would-be voters away.
“Caucusing, as we’re demonstrating clearly right now, is a mess,” she said. “It’s not an easy process.”
This news is provided by Politico RSS Feed, All credits go to Politico. For more Politico News please visit: https://www.politico.com/
Disclaimer: All posts made on this website are provided for information purposes only. None of the information here is intended as investment advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as a recommendation, endorsement, or sponsorship of any security, Company, or fund. Before making an investment decision, you should seek the advice of a qualified and registered securities professional. The author is not paid to share this information. Cannabis Investment Group is not paid to share this information and has no business relationship other than shareholder with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.