Party leaders predict large caucus turnout

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JOHNSTON — State party leaders are preparing for heavy turnout for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses Feb. 1.

Party leaders who conduct the caucuses said Friday they expect a large turnout, but whether it reaches historic numbers depends on which party you ask.

Republican Party of Iowa state chairman Jeff Kaufmann and Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire talked about the caucuses during taping for this week’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.

Kaufmann said he expects the largest caucus turnout in his party’s history. That expectation is bolstered by a large field of candidates and the potential for a wave of first-time caucusgoers turning out to support candidate Donald Trump.

The 2012 caucuses turned out 120,000 Iowans.

“I would be very surprised if we did not break the record,” Kaufmann said. “Of course, the question that everybody’s asking is whether Donald Trump is going to be able to deliver. … But it’s more than just the Trump campaign. We’re seeing some well-run (campaign) machines out there.”

McGuire expects big caucus crowds as well, but not quite like 2008, when Barack Obama’s operation brought out a deluge of first-time caucusgoers. That year, a record 240,000 Iowans participated in the Democratic caucuses, which Obama won.

“I think it’s going to be a good, strong turnout,” McGuire said. “2008 was a pretty unique year. I probably wouldn’t predict that.”

Both parties are taking steps to make the caucuses more inclusive. Because the caucuses require attendance at a specific time in the evening — unlike elections, when voters can go to the polls at any time of day — people with disabilities or with young children, for example, might have a difficult time getting out to caucus.

Both parties are establishing ways to allow military members serving overseas to participate. McGuire said Democrats also are taking steps to add child care at caucus sites and allow people to participate in “satellite” caucuses to help limit their travel.

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