WATERLOO, Iowa — 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 said. “There’s starting to be a bit of fatigue.”
As virtually every Democratic contender swings through Iowa this weekend to participate in the state fair, even some die-hard Democratic activists are restless.
They’re worried the historically massive field isn’t shrinking fast enough and the debate stages — plural — are too crowded.
Kim Sleezer, a 48-year-old middle school teacher, said that’s her main concern.
“I feel like the longer we’re watering things down, the less time we have to kind of get everything together and fight the bigger fight that we have against Trump,” she said.
Stiffer requirements to qualify for the September debate could force some candidates out of the race in the coming weeks.
But those most at risk of being cut aren’t rushing for the exits. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock are so far resisting entreaties to abandon their low-polling White House bids to instead run for the Senate.
“For most Americans, the first time they thought about the Democratic primary was when we had a debate last month,” said former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who is also polling near the bottom of the field.
Lindsey Ellickson, a Democratic activist in Cedar Rapids, said she is worried that all of the focus on the presidential candidates diverts attention from critical down-ballot races. She said Democrats also need to focus on city council and statehouse seats, as well as the campaign to defeat Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
“Having most of the campaign staff hired by 25 different candidates, and most of the attention going toward door-knocking for presidential candidates is not helpful at this time,” Ellickson said.
Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Joey Norris said with at least 15 campaigns deploying staff to his rural county, “we’re seeing that each campaign is tripping over each other in our small counties and our small towns.”
He said voters being repeatedly called by campaigns might avoid their phones soon.
Matt Martin, a 41-year-old scientist from Iowa City, said he’s hit that point already.
“I definitely think there is a little bit of a burnout from getting texts from people that are involved with the campaigns” inviting him to events, he said. “Right now, I’m just ignoring them.”
His friend, Leigh Nida, a doctoral student in educational policy, was equally frustrated.
“It’s interesting that you’re getting texts about events — I’m just getting asked for money,” she said. “I’m a graduate student. I don’t have any money!”