Depressed Democrat Turnout: The Iowa Story that Matters
While the most entertaining story of the Iowa caucuses was either the utter chaos and incompetence that unfolded or the sinister machinations of the Democrat party, depending on your take on the events, the more important story is getting far less attention.
When given the first opportunity to turn out and vote for a candidate to oppose President Donald Trump, Democrats largely shrugged and said, "Meh." Turnout was down almost 30% from 2008.
This is by far the most important story out of this primary, which is why it will be largely blacked out by the media.
While Barack Obama was not on the ballot, Democrats clearly expected a greater show of voter force when they were given the chance to do something other than howl their Trump derangement rage at the moon.
Smart Democrats understand this reality all too well. Harry Enten is one of the smarter ones.
"If you go back to four years ago, what the Iowa Democratic Party has said is this is about the same exact turnout," Enten observed. "That is not particularly good[.] ... There's supposed to be all this excitement around the Democratic Party wanting to beat Donald Trump. And this isn't the only data point that shows that."
"Not particularly good" in liberal speak translates to catastrophic.
The problem for Democrats is that only one of their candidates excites anything resembling passion, and he is the one candidate that the Democrat establishment power players are doing everything in their power to torpedo. At the same time, they are desperately pushing the least inspiring candidate in the entire field, although that impossible dream might be over post-Iowa. For Democrats, voting chicanery is practically a national spectator sport, but one would have thought they would have at least kept their fraud powder dry until they actually faced a Republican.
In one precinct, Bernie Sanders beat Pete Buttigieg 111 votes to 47 in the first round. They both landed two delegates in that precinct in the Democrats' version of "everyone gets two trophies." The Sanders camp has to be concerned that a repeat of 2016 is underway, when they almost certainly won the state, perhaps decisively, and yet were declared the narrow losers. The fix was in, and, while I am thankfully no expert on the psychology of anyone who would actually consider pulling the lever for the Marxist madman, I have to think most of his supporters know that the fix is in again. It just so happens that the "chaos" benefited the candidate of the establishment while hurting Sanders. Nothing to see here.
The media have been assuring America that we are at a national boiling point of pent up anti-Trump rage against the worst person to ever walk the Earth and that voters are dying to get to the voting booth in a collective cathartic purge. Iowa is the canary in the coal mine for the media and Democrats, showing that relying purely on opposition to Trump is about to blow up in their faces.
While the complete caucus disaster (or Machiavellian machination) is more fun to talk about, the poor turnout is the story that matters.
Will the behavior of Iowans be the start of a trend?
President Trump's policies in combination with Democrat extremism has created a decisive political realignment that moved working-class voters out of the Democrat column and into his. Expect Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan to follow a similar path, with Democrats left to scratch their heads about the turnout that didn't happen.
I expect that 2020 will also be the year that Minnesota votes Republican for the first time since 1972. Once these states start to flip, the terrain becomes increasingly unfriendly to Democrats. When long Democrat stronghold West Virginia flipped in 2000, Democrats won 45.6% of the vote. In 2016, their share of the vote was down to an anemic 26.5%.
Those voters are not likely to tack back to the Democrats because Democrats, believing in their demographic ascendancy, have no intention of moderating their message. This is why so many of the enthusiastic supporters gathering at the president's rallies, at least on paper, are Democrats. There is nobody quite as committed as a new convert who sees the light.
The president will handily win what was once a fairly reliable Democrat state in Iowa. Democrats won Iowa in six out of the last eight presidential elections. But with that realignment, the state will almost certainly stay in Republican hands for the second straight cycle, and it won't be particularly close.
The good news for the Democrats is that they will likely have this turnout challenge only in states they don't need to worry about winning. Californians will step through the human feces to get to the polls to vote for the party that turned their state into a cesspool of misery. New York? Fuggedaboutit.
The landscape going into New Hampshire will be very different based on the results out of Iowa. If Joe Biden did indeed finish in fourth place, he may already be a dead man walking, which will lead to the establishment torn between pinning their hopes and schemes on either the small-town mayor or the billionaire anti-gun zealot.
New Hampshire is a slightly different animal. While the 2016 election in New Hampshire was razer-close, with the president losing by all of 0.4%, its voting base is far more favorable to the Democrats, who enjoy dominance across that entire region. If you look at everything through the lens of race, Iowa and New Hampshire look similar. But real diversity is more defined by ideological differences, and New Hampshire is no ideological twin of Iowa.
If Democrat voters don't show a bit more enthusiasm there, they are in deep trouble, perhaps even in that state.
Even as Democrats are running into a voter enthusiasm challenge, President Trump is not. He just hit his high water mark in a Gallup poll with a 49-percent job approval rating. In this hyper-partisan environment in which nearly every national media story is a ruthless attack on him, that is staggeringly high, especially considering that his approval among Republicans is 94%. During the last election cycle, many of the president's voters voted against "Jeffrey Epstein Didn't Kill Himself." This time, Trump's voters will crawl through nuclear fallout to get to the polls.
According to Gallup, 41 percent of Americans "are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S." That's the highest satisfaction level in 15 years, which is not exactly fertile ground to run an opposition campaign.
So enjoy the chaos of Iowa and what will likely be an even more entertaining New Hampshire. But know that the biggest story, the one that is being underplayed, is the apparent lack of Democrat enthusiasm, which is truly the best statement today that the state of the union is strong.
Fletch Daniels can be found on Twitter at @fletchdaniels.