The Iowa Caucuses will be remembered for a very long time for the Democrats’ incompetence in managing the process, but that debacle turns out to be small potatoes. Last night’s kickoff of Democratic presidential-primary voting was supposed to highlight the enthusiasm voters across the country have in defeating Donald Trump. Instead, as the Washington Pot’s Karen Tumulty reports this morning, the turnout itself came in at nearly half of what some had predicted — and fell 70,000 short of Barack Obama’s 2008 turnout:
Even as the Iowa Democratic Party was trying to sort out the chaos in its reporting system, a party official announced that turnout was “on pace” with what they had seen in 2016.
In other words, it was mediocre. About 170,000 people participated in the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses, far short of the unprecedented 240,000 voters who turned out in 2008 and launched Barack Obama on his way to the White House. What was so exciting a dozen years ago was not only how many Iowans showed up, but who they were: young people, first-time caucusgoers, an ethnically diverse mix of voters in an overwhelmingly white state.
Until recent days, there had been plenty of buzz among Democrats that this year would set a new record. There was even some loose talk that turnout could reach 300,000, which would be incontrovertible evidence of the passion that their party is feeling about the prospect of defeating President Trump in November.
People tend to forget just how talented Obama was at organizing, so expectations that any of the current candidates would outperform him were ambitious, let’s just say. Party leaders and pundits alike figured that the progressive grassroots and the establishment-minded voters would turn out in droves to send a message to their supposed bête noire, Donald Trump. Iowans had the opportunity to demonstrate heightened enthusiasm, but in the end they may not have even hit their 2016 level of 171,109 participants — one which pitted current frontrunner Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton.