But when Buttigieg had briefly shot ahead by 9 points in the previous Des Moines Register poll in November, the largest lead any candidate has enjoyed so far, it seeded “a sense he was peaking too soon,” said Sean Bagniewski, Polk County Democratic Party chairman, who is not endorsing in the primary.

“It made the expectations way too high for them, and that’s why they’ve bunkered down,” Bagniewski continued, adding that the Buttigieg campaign doesn’t “want to raise [expectations] any more than they already have been.”

And it’s not easy to recapture the energy reflected in that early polling. “I think he got a lot of people’s attention in the fall,” said Holly Filson-Heath, a 65-year-old Democrat who saw Buttigieg speak in Algona, Iowa. “But the enthusiasm isn’t as high as it was when he was in Algona a few months ago, but I think people feel like we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty.”