As the days until the caucuses tick down, the remaining candidates are bucking in by sending out reminders to their text and email lists to caucus, spending some last-minute money on advertising, and returning to critical areas to hold some last-minute events. It’s exciting! However, not everyone is feeling the rush of caucus season in Iowa.
The lone event I have been able to attend for the Democrats this cycle was the Liberty and Justice Dinner in Altoona. It wasn’t an event for a particular candidate; instead, it was a statewide party meeting. The party also included a guest appearance from the highest-ranking Democrat to come to Iowa since the caucus cycle started, Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman. The hotel ballroom was packed with Iowa Democrats, looking to hear encouraging words from the big guy from Pennsylvania, who pulled off a tight win in a closely monitored election against Dr. Mehmet Oz.
I spoke to many event attendees about how they felt at this point, nearly a year before election day 2024. Many expressed concern about the President’s chances for reelection, and almost none believed he could flip Iowa back to blue. Some individuals were upset at the actions of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to move away from the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses. When I asked one person who expressed this opinion to me if that would make them consider not voting for Democrats in the future, she rejected the idea before I even finished my question. While many in the Democratic base aren’t willing to budge, swing voters in Iowa, considered the key to winning Iowa for decades, certainly are.
“It just feels like something’s missing, y’know?” A man sitting at the same table as me at the Liberty and Justice Dinner said this to me. He pointed out that even in 2012, when President Obama ran unopposed, the Democrats still caucused around Iowa, and the sitting president, or a representative of his, made several trips to Iowa during the caucus season and leading up to the election. His message was: Iowa, I have not forgotten about you. Yet, as the end of the year approaches, President Biden has not once visited Iowa, nor has he made any effort to gather support. Caucusing is an Iowa tradition, regardless of party affiliation. For Iowa democrats to have their caucus taken away from them, at least this year, it seems, is a sour topic among the party faithful. The state party has announced an absentee presidential preference vote that will occur throughout early 2024, but most Democrats I spoke to said nearly the same thing: “It’s just not the same.”