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'Bush Fatigue' Unlikely to Increase Caucus Turnout by Much

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This is a collaborative reporting effort between the Huffington Post's OffTheBus and the Iowa Independent.

Reported by Paul Abrams, Kristen Anderson, Christian Avard, Jennifer Engevik, Steven Greenberg, Brian Fairbanks, Mayhill Fowler, Melissa Hapke, Cheryl Lynn Helm, Kati Hollis, Nisha Jani, JoAnne Lindsley, Barbara Mazor, Andre Noren, Kelly Nuxoll, Heather Pritchard, Neil Rodriguez, Sandra Thompson, James Trimarco

Speculation that widespread "Bush fatigue" may translate into a tsunami of Democratic turnout for the Iowa caucus seems to be misplaced. A joint investigation by HuffPost's OfftheBus and the Iowa Independent suggests that turnout in this year's Iowa Caucuses is unlikely to be much higher than it was in 2004. And while frustration with the Bush administration over a range of issues -- from the war in Iraq, torture, the economy, and the environment, among others -- may be a motivating factor for the Democratic party faithful, it may not be enough to deliver a significant increase in turnout on January 3rd.

Interviews with Democratic campaign staff, Democratic county party chairs, and several veteran political observers further suggest that, as in previous years, the actual turnout on caucus night will depend much more on the efficiency of respective campaign field operations and on serendipity rather than on a collective reaction to the incumbent administration.

Even those who predict higher voter turnout acknowledge that factors such as the proximity of the caucus date to the holiday season, the college football championships taking place the same night, a displaced student population, and the inherently inconvenient and potentially intimidating nature of caucusing -- as opposed to balloting -- could easily suppress turnout among an otherwise motivated electorate. While Bush fatigue may drive turnout, it will not be by much.

While some 125,000 Democrats braved the cold Iowa weather to caucus in 2004 (a sharp increase from the 2000 Democratic caucuses), David Redlawsk, University of Iowa Political Science professor and the Acting Johnson County Democratic Chairman in 2004, says he does not expect that number to increase this year and believes that Iowa may have already reached its turnout peak. "I don't know if we will have more people (in the Johnson County Democratic Caucus). In Johnson, we tripled our turnout from 2000. In 2004, we had 11,000 people. There are practical limits. We can't sign all the people in; there's no place to put them. 2004 for Democrats here was a pretty intense time. And there was already a substantial student caucus in 2004," states Redlawsk.

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