Why the Turnout in Iowa Has Some Democrats Worried

New Hampshire officials say they expect independents, who can participate in party primaries, to join Democrats and come out in high numbers: Secretary of State Bill Gardner is predicting more than 500,000 residents will vote in the primary, a turnout of more than 50 percent of the state’s registered voters.

“I’m not worried about it,” said former Gov. John Lynch, who is supporting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “The turnout will be high, and it will be fueled by the number of independents.”

Yet, those predictions may ignore other, worrying signs for Democrats. Viewership for the Democratic debates has fallen since September, with the December face-off in Iowa attracting about 7.3 million people, according to Nielsen.

In less educated and rural areas in Iowa, caucus turnout fell below 2016 levels. In Clarke county, a rural area near the Missouri border, Mr. Trump received more than twice as many caucus votes as each of the Democrats running this time. Just eight years ago, President Barack Obama carried the county by two points over the Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

For Mr. Sanders and the progressive groups backing his bid, the turnout could hint at some worrying signs. His team saw the first-in-the-nation caucus state as a template for its larger strategy, staking its candidacy on an audacious bet that Mr. Sanders could expand and change the Democratic electorate.

In his final events before the caucuses, Mr. Sanders pivoted his message from one of policy change to turnout, arguing that he could win the caucuses and the general election by motivating a new movement fueled by millions of Americans.

During a stop in Cedar Rapids, he made his goal for Iowa clear: “Let us go forward — today, tomorrow — and create the largest voter turnout in the history of the Iowa caucus,” he said.

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