“As a citizen, am I worried about it? Yeah. Especially after the explosive turnout of ’17 and ’18,” said David Axelrod, who helped spearhead the historic Barack Obama Iowa caucus win in 2008. “There are more benign explanations, like it is a caucus and the candidates were in Washington and not there to stir up the turnout. But there is another possibility, which is that people just felt dispirited. That’s a danger for Democrats. The Trump effort is infused with cynicism. And propagating cynicism can be a powerful tactic if you’re trying to depress an opponent’s turnout.”
“That is a big concern,” he added, “that a dispirited electorate, beaten and burnt out, just walks away.”
In interviews with activists and operatives throughout the party, reactions to the turnout in Iowa have ranged from alarm to nonchalance. But underneath it all is a belief that the party needs to ensure that the message it is conveying to voters is more than just disgust with Trump. Months of focus on impeachment ended this week not just with an acquittal but with conflicting party focuses: a national conversation centering on investigations into the president’s conduct, and the local campaigning that leaned into other matters.