Democrats hit the road in Iowa to win back Washington

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., purchases corn dogs with his wife, April McClain-Delaney, at the Iowa State Fair on August 16, 2017.

DES MOINES — A growing number of Democratic lawmakers who are increasingly concerned that their party might fall short again in elections next year are on the road this summer to buck up beleaguered party activists and recruit new candidates.

Some have broader political ambitions, but most of these little-known Democrats are being invited by local and state party activists seeking out fresh faces to help raise money, recruit candidates and woo new voters. It’s a reflection of the growing voter dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party’s top leaders in Washington, D.C. — and sheer worry that the party may once again spoil its chances.

Struggling to rebuild its ranks after being wiped out of power in Washington and some state capitals, Democrats run the risk of more setbacks next year, even as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings tumble. The party is in dire straits, trailing national Republicans by some measures in fundraising. The Republican National Committee outraised its Democratic counterpart by more than $6 million in July.

These challenges come as an increasing number of new Democratic congressional candidates say that they won’t vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to lead their caucus in the future, signaling that they, like many of the voters they meet, want generational change as well as ideological change inside the caucus.

Among those traveling this summer is Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who supported Pelosi in last year’s leadership vote but at 41 is among the caucus’s younger members. She recently went far outside her district in Queens to visit the Iowa State Fair.

Local Democrats picked her up at the airport, whisked her to the site of the famous butter cow and made sure she sampled such fair staples as a pork chop on a stick and fried Oreo cookies.

“I might come back for breakfast,” she joked as she posed for photos with a pork chop, “the food here is so good.”

Meng, who is a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is focusing much of her political travel on rural areas in a bid to better understand how to win back voters who have drifted away from her party. She said she feels the need to reach out because, “We don’t have the numbers, honestly, in the House and the Senate, in the White House.”

She said she’s not in Iowa because she wants to run for president — but other House Democrats are already running or clearly thinking about it.

“I’m not here to test waters,” she told a group of Des Moines-area Democrats as she explained why she…

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