Why Iowa Has Become Such a Heartbreaker for Democrats

Why Iowa Has Become Such a Heartbreaker for Democrats

The road back in Iowa for Democrats is long and complicated. The state once prided itself on having more registered independents than Republicans or Democrats, but since 2018, in keeping with national trends toward polarization, independents now rank behind both major parties. Democrats have suffered a net loss of 120,000 registered voters compared with Republicans. Those votes alone are 10 percent of turnout in nonpresidential years.

The party’s setbacks have reheated the debate over whether to cancel Iowa’s caucuses as the leadoff nominating contest. Many national Democratic officials argue that a larger and more diverse state should go before either Iowa or New Hampshire. Even some Iowa Democratic strategists have supported killing off the caucuses to focus on local issues and reduce the influence of the national progressive wing of the party.

Mr. Courtney said the voters he knew didn’t care much about cultural issues that Democrats elsewhere dwell on, like gun control and immigration. “All they really want to know is where can they get a good job that pays the most money so that they can take care of their family, and we’re not touching on that,” he said.

He has cautious hopes for Mr. Biden’s infrastructure proposal.

“If we can put people to work making good money building that stuff, it could be like the W.P.A. back in the day,” said Mr. Courtney, whose parents worshiped Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Even Mr. Davis, the G.O.P. chair, conceded that a robust infrastructure plan that brought jobs to Burlington would make it harder for Republicans to continue their winning streak.

“It probably will be tough in four years if things are good,” he said.

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