Too Many Candidates: Some Iowans, Democrats in Other Early-Voting States Are Tired of Massive 2020 Field

Democratic presidential candidate Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at the Des Moines Register Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Jake Poorman is exhausted. He’s been trying to get every Democratic presidential candidate to sign a baseball, a souvenir of the wildest Democratic primary he’s seen in his 60 years as an Iowan. He’s gathered so many signatures — 16 — he had to get another ball.

That, coupled with the constant controversies out of Washington, has him a bit burnt out on politics.

“It’s a lot of work,” he bemoaned. “There’s starting to be a bit of fatigue.”

Iowans treasure the national attention that shines on them every four years when presidential candidates descend on the state, whose caucuses mark the beginning of an election year. But as virtually every Democratic contender swings through Iowa this weekend to participate in the famed state fair, even some die-hard Democratic activists are getting restless.

They’re worried the historically massive field isn’t shrinking fast enough and the debate stages — plural — are too crowded.

The concern isn’t limited to Iowa. Recent interviews with dozens of Democrats in other early-voting states registered a fresh anxiety among the most diligent deciders: If Democrats don’t start to figure things out soon, they could give President Donald Trump the upper hand.

“I think that watching the infighting could have Trump win again,” said Duane Campbell, a 29-year-old custodian in Las Vegas. “That’s what he wants. He wants us to infight.”

Beth Doney, a 62-year-old retired librarian in Las Vegas, said she too is worried the hits Democrats are taking at each other could leave the president better-positioned to win re-election.

“I’m just concerned that among Democrats, we’re not yet able to rally around a smaller group of people and really focus on beating Trump, which I think is the number one issue of the election,” Doney said.

A crowded primary field can be a good omen for a party, forcing candidates to endure bloody fights that can prepare them for the general election. In 2016, 17 Republicans battled for the Republican nomination before Trump took on Hillary Clinton, who faced just one serious Democratic challenger.

National polls suggest Democrats are enthusiastic about the array of candidates. But there are plenty of jitters, too.

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