MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa | President Trump, the great unifier?
A Democratic Party that was fractured by infighting during the last election cycle has found in 2019 a common bond over a shared disgust for all things Trump — creating a sense of harmony ahead of what promises to be a bruising presidential primary battle.
“I’d vote for a potato instead of Trump at this point,” said Chris Jeffrey, who felt Sen. Bernard Sanders got a raw deal from Democrats last time and reluctantly voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Mr. Jeffrey fears more shenanigans in the Democratic primary next year — a common sentiment among Sanders supporters in Iowa — but said Democratic voters here are dead set on doing what it takes to oust Mr. Trump.
Democrats now admit they were overconfident about 2016 and the general election, figuring there was no way the country would pick Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton.
Lory Chaplan said she wasn’t as engaged as she could have been.
“I was too comfortable,” Ms. Chaplan said. “I was thinking we got this in the bag.”
The 64-year-old retired teacher is among a number of Democrats in Iowa who say they won’t make the same mistake again in 2020.
“Trump kind of gave us a wake-up call,” said Amanda Johnson, 35. “You kind of see where people really stand, and it is kind of scary.”
The shared desire among Democrats to stop Mr. Trump could be crucial to healing in a Democratic Party already riven by disputes between the activist liberal wing of the party and a more moderate side.
Those differences, combined with revelations that the Democratic National Committee put its thumb on the scale to assist Mrs. Clinton, left a number of Democrats disheartened in 2016.
Unifying against an incumbent is a typical dynamic for the out-of-power party in presidential contests. Democrats in 2004 saw a primary fight give way to unity behind then-Sen. John Kerry, as he sought to unseat President George W. Bush.
Republicans faced the same factor in 2012, when GOP voters searched for a viable alternative to Mitt Romney but, in the end, most rallied around him when he became their nominee to try to unseat President Barack Obama.
But both incumbents ended up defeating those challengers.
Ginnie Swarm, who walked the streets to drum up support for Mr. Obama in 2008, says her activity fell off in 2012 and 2016, and she now regrets not doing more to aid Mrs. Clinton.
“Everyone thought she was going to be a shoo-in,” Ms. Swarm said, insisting that she plans to be more involved. She said she already envisions herself knocking on doors or making phone calls on behalf of the eventual Democratic nominee.
“I do not want to take this election for granted,” Ms. Swarm said.
Democrats hope last year’s strong voter turnout for the midterm elections will carry over to next year, particularly among groups who tend to back Democrats: young people, minorities and college-educated white voters.
Polls now show voters from both parties are already as tuned in to the 2020 election as they were in the weeks leading up to Election Day last November.
“The point is, interest is already at the same level in early May of the off-year as is was in mid-October of the election year in 2016,” said Glen Bolger, a GOP pollster.
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