Iowa Democrats swarm to evaluate wide field of White House hopefuls

DES MOINES — Grassroots Iowa Democrats seem to be swarming to meet all the presidential candidates coming through the state, a far different scenario than at this point in the last campaign.

In 2015, Hillary Clinton supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters rarely, if ever, crossed over to see the candidate they hadn’t chosen. This time around, though, it’s a different story. Sue Dvorsky of Coralville is a former Iowa Democratic Party chair. “One of the dynamics that’s different is this is not a head-to-head. There are so many candidates and they are, each one of them, so interesting,” Dvorsky says.

And, without a clear front-runner, Democrats are “intrigued” by all their options according to Dvorsky. “They are excited,” Dvorsky says. “I think that, as always, Iowa Democrats are taking very seriously their role in hosting this national conversation.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Alex Schuman grew up in Fort Dodge, worked as a journalist in D.C. and has moved back to Iowa for a marketing job. “I feel like Donald Trump kind of set the standard that anyone can get to the presidency,” Schuman says. “All the old benchmarks are gone, so it’s worth listening to everyone who’s out there.”

Indiana native Jill Abele says Iowans get the rare opportunity to take the measure of each candidate in person. “My mom talked me into coming out here in 2004 for Howard Dean, to volunteer to make an impact…and that got in my blood and so I’ve been in Iowa ever since, with a small stint in Illinois, but that’s why you see every candidate because you don’t get that opportunity in states like Indiana,” Abele says. Gary Schmidt of Ankeny is hoping Joe Biden runs, but he’s giving other candidates a hearing. “As many as I can,” Schmidt says, “a wide spectrum of candidates, to narrow it down.” But Schmidt says he has plenty of time to make up his mind.

The Iowa Caucuses are 357 days away.