DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic Party officials cited jammed parking lots and large numbers of voters registering at caucus sites as indications of a record turnout.
Caucus organizers ran out of voter registration forms at Horace Mann School in downtown Iowa City (search), and about 100 people still were standing in a line that encircled the school at 6:30 p.m.
At Iowa City Precinct 9, meeting at All Nations Baptist Church (search), the meeting started at least 15 minutes late because of the number of attendees. At least 200 people packed the church cafeteria and 75 were waiting to get in.
"This is definitely bigger than anything I've ever seen," said veteran caucus-goer Dianne Dillon-Ridgely.
Secretary of State Chet Culver said all indications pointed to a record turnout and record voter registration.
"We've been setting every record imaginable in the last few months," Culver said.
He said 95 percent of eligible Iowans are registered to vote.
"We've surpassed the 2 million mark for registered voters. The last couple of months people registering have been trending two-to-one in favor of Democrats," said Culver, a Democrat.
Iowa's population is 2.9 million.
Culver predicted a high probability of the 18-24 age group registering large numbers since some of the campaigns specifically targeted that group and recruited volunteers to help.
He warned that large numbers of people registering as Democrats to participate could overload caucus volunteers and slow down the process.
Party officials said it's difficult to compare turnout with the 1988 caucuses because hard numbers of attendance were not kept that year.
Estimates had as many as 125,000 participants attending in 1988, when Rep. Dick Gephardt (search), D-Missouri, won.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe (search), in Des Moines to observe the caucuses, said the close, hard-fought battle was healthy for the party. He predicted about an hour before the caucuses started that turnout would smash past records.
"I need to make sure we harness this excitement for the next 288 days," he said, referring to the Nov. 2 general election.