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Turnout Appears Disappointing For Democrats

Natalie Krebs
Entrance poll data from NBC News show that first-time caucusgoers were way down this year. Here, caucusgoers arrive at their precinct site in Des Moines.

Democrats were hoping for — and expecting — a high turnout for Monday’s Iowa caucuses. The delayed results and app reporting failure have overshadowed the fact that turnout appears to be on pace with 2016 rather than 2008’s record, according to the state party.

Late Monday night, the party’s communications director, Mandy McClure, said, “Early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016."

With 71% of precincts reporting, that estimate was still on track. Some 239,000 caucused in 2008’s record-setting year. In 2016, it was the second-highest, but just 171,000.

That’s disappointing for Democrats. They were hoping, with their first contest of the nominating season, to show they had a high level of enthusiasm and that they are, to borrow a phrase, fired up and ready to go defeat President Trump.

The mediocre turnout numbers would be surprising, considering every event for each candidate in the days before the caucuses was packed. It may very well be that many undecided voters, who came out to events, decided not to caucus.

Entrance poll data from NBC News show that first-time caucusgoers were way down this year. Just 35% were caucusing for the first time. Not only was that lower than the 57 percent in 2008, it’s lower than the 44% in 2016.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.