Iowa Democrats prepare for the home stretch
IDP chair details the party’s efforts before caucus night
With the 2020 caucuses now just 100 days away, Democrats are honing in to harness what the Iowa Democratic Party sees as a small window of opportunity to bring more Iowa voters, particularly in small towns and rural areas, into the fold.
“These caucuses … allow us to build so much energy and enthusiasm for candidates and the values they campaign for,” said Troy Price, chairman of the IDP.
That energy, he said, translates to greater electoral success in 2020, when the party is hopeful that part two of a “blue wave” will manifest in a matchup again President Donald Trump.
“When you see candidates coming through the state and small towns, you see big energetic crowds for our candidates,” Price said.
Just before the last 100 days began today, Price told The Messenger about 95% of caucus locations were locked in, ahead of schedule from this point in past years leading up to caucuses. Additionally, hundreds of workers are being trained to help run all 677 caucus sites.
New this year, the IDP is implementing “satellite caucuses,” which will have a similar look and feel to the traditional caucus experience, but will offer more opportunities to voters who can’t attend the big night in February, such as shift workers.
The satellite caucuses will offer a chance for voters to participate at alternate locations or alternate times and dates, though Price said that the party wants those sites to schedule their start time as close to 7 p.m. as possible.
Those participating at satellite caucuses will be voting for delegate equivalents, rather than the actual delegates themselves, which will be factored into the final results on caucus night.
To bolster satellite caucus efforts, the IDP has hired a caucus accessibility team to ensure anyone wanting to caucus is able to. Accessibility efforts include working with rideshare programs and local transit officials and ensuring all sites are ADA compliant for those with disabilities.
The alternate form of caucusing is what the party has settled on after its plans for a virtual caucus, where voters could participate over the phone or online, were abruptly rejected by the Democratic National Committee in August, leaving the state party scrambling to find ways to accommodate more voters.
“We felt pretty good about the process until August,” Price said, when a DNC meeting in San Francisco made it clear that Iowa’s new plans weren’t going to work out.
The DNC rejected the IDP’s plans primarily because of security reasons.
“Obviously, we were disappointed,” he said, appreciative of the DNC’s concerns about security, cyber threats and the potential influence of foreign bad actors. “The plans to be successful require the support of the DNC. Without that, there’s no way we could go forward with the program.”
The DNC asked caucus states like Iowa and Nevada to find alternate forms of caucusing to increase participation in what some voters say is a long, stressful process for voting.
But as the first caucus state in the nation, Iowa has to carefully balance any move that could increase participation, but make the caucus too close to a primary for New Hampshire’s comfort.
New Hampshire guards its status as first primary in the nation fiercely, and would likely reschedule its primary to be the first if Iowa switched to a primary ballot that would be less time consuming for voters.
And with anxiety on the rise in rural Iowa about moves made by President Trump’s administration on tariffs, trade and ethanol, Democrats are trying to capitalize on a small window of opportunity to access voters who might otherwise never consider voting for a Democrat.
“At the end of the day, (Trump) lied to Iowans,” said Price. “Time after time, he has done the opposite,” of what he promised to protect industries important to Iowa such as agriculture, renewable energy and biofuels.
To do that, the IDP hired organizers for each congressional district early on to build out infrastructure in rural communities that may have been a traditionally weak spot in the party’s focus.
“There are places out there that haven’t always gotten the support they should have,” from the Iowa Democratic Party, Price said.
This year, he says their footprint — which has spread to rural communities earlier this year than in any election cycle in the last decade — has paid big dividends, particularly in the notoriously red 4th Congressional District.
Using infrastructure strengthening and caucuses as keys for building the party, Price said the IDP is making sure anyone who wants to be a part of the Democratic Party is able to access it.
As some critics question why one of the most demographically white states in the nation should continue to hold outsized influence in the selection of the next president, the IDP believes it still holds an advantage in finding the best candidate for the party’s success.
Price said that tremendous diversity within the Democratic Party surfaces issues and concerns shared by millions of Americans.
And as the party rebuilds from 2016’s stunning electoral losses of states once taken for granted in the blue column like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Iowa’s strength as a Midwestern state will be key in predicting a candidate the party can hope will be successful against President Trump.
“Candidates who do well in Iowa can do very well in the general election,” Price said.
The Iowa Democratic caucuses will be held on Feb. 3, 2020. Voters wishing to caucus can register the same day, and are not required to provide the same forms of photo ID that Iowa will require in November’s general election.