A crowd awaits Sen. Kamala Harris at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Kyung Lah/CNN
A crowd awaits Sen. Kamala Harris at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Now playing
03:09
Democrat enthusiasm surges ahead of 2020
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Now playing
03:20
Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out at media after backlash over controversial caucus
AP
Now playing
03:16
Maxine Waters: Jim Jordan is a bully and I shut him down
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
03:51
Marjorie Taylor Greene launching 'America First' caucus
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
Now playing
02:22
White House backtracks on refugees decision after criticism
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
02:44
'National embarrassment': Biden reacts to mass shootings
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15:  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
Russia to expel 10 US diplomats in 'tit-for-tat response' to Biden sanctions
Now playing
03:10
Avlon: Here's what we know 100 days since the Capitol riot
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:17
Political scientist: US-Russia relations are in the toilet
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Governor settles with former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual mistreatment
pool/cnn
Now playing
01:56
Hear what Dr. Gupta said when Cruz went maskless before
Now playing
02:30
Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is personal for this lawmaker
President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, about the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.=
Andrew Harnik/AP
President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, about the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.=
Now playing
02:10
Why Biden made his Afghanistan announcement in this particular room
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced his plans to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 in a final step towards ending America's longest war.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced his plans to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 in a final step towards ending America's longest war.
Now playing
01:03
Biden: It's time to end the forever war
Kinzinger
CNN
Kinzinger
Now playing
05:56
What Republican lawmaker fears after US troops leave Afghanistan
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., questions witnesses during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., questions witnesses during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Washington.
Now playing
02:59
Women detail late-night parties with Gaetz
(CNN) —  

The fire marshal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, ordered the campaign to close the doors. Sen. Kamala Harris’ town hall at a historic church was at capacity – from basement to sanctuary to balconies. Harris made her way outside to the crowd that refused to leave the church steps, even as heavy snow blanketed them. “We’re going to have many opportunities for us to spend time together,” she said to cheers.

In Des Moines, Iowans greeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren with a similar scene. She stood before her overflow crowd, stuck outside her political event. “There’s not enough room for everyone to get inside,” she said.

In Charleston, South Carolina, the gymnasium for Harris’ town hall quickly filled. People climbed the closed bleachers, hunting for seats. Organizers opened up the second-floor balcony and Democrats filled the entire area circling the gym floor.

In these first weeks of the 2020 campaign in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, crowds of voters have packed large venues like gyms and 1,000-seat church halls. The large number of Democratic presidential candidates has not thinned the packs of the base, but has seemingly produced the opposite effect.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets supporters after announcing her official bid for President in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets supporters after announcing her official bid for President in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

“There is something different in the energy this time around,” said Meghann Foster, of Coralville, Iowa. “I think we have such an exciting field. 2018 was just the warm-up for the main event.”

Foster, 43, could be the Democratic Party’s poster child for that warm-up act of the midterms. After Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, Foster recalled, she was “in so much shock after Hillary Clinton’s loss. But after I got over the shock, I decided it was time. No more sitting on the sidelines.”

Foster, like many women in 2018’s so-called Year of the Woman, decided to run for office. The married mother of five and educator at the University of Iowa wanted to fight for what she felt was needed in America’s democracy. A seat in local government, the Coralville City Council, was open. She ran and won.

Iowa voter Meghann Foster with 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker.
From Meghann Foster
Iowa voter Meghann Foster with 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker.

Her local win and the national Democratic gains in Congress fuel Foster for 2020. She has met Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. And on an hourlong drive to Bettendorf, Iowa, to meet Harris, she told CNN why she was making such an effort to meet candidates.

“There’s an urgency. I think a lot of people realize that we absolutely have to get this right,” Foster said.

The goal, she said, of all the people at the crowded events she’s seen this year is to find someone to beat Trump.

“I think there are a lot of Democrats really doing their homework. What I’m hearing a lot of people say is, ‘I haven’t decided yet, I want to hear from as many people as I can.’” Foster counts herself in that group, saying it’s far too early to decide which candidate she’ll caucus for in Iowa.

An earlier start

Iowa feels different this year, said Penny Rosfjord, a longtime Iowa state party Democrat from Sioux City. “They are coming out in numbers and they’re asking questions like never before,” said Rosfjord of voters. “It harkens back to 2007,” the year candidate Barack Obama packed restaurants, diners and churches across Iowa. Except in 2019, many of the top tier candidates, especially Harris, are seeing large, energetic crowds.

Voters try to get photos with Harris in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Kyung Lah/CNN
Voters try to get photos with Harris in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Asked about her own crowd, Harris told CNN, “The American public has rightly embraced the fact that this is their government and their future is in their hands. They’re going to speak out. They’ll require that they be seen and that their concerns and their issues be heard and so we’re seeing this level of vigorous participation. And I think it’s good for us. It’s the sign of a healthy democracy.”

When Rosfjord looks at the 2019 crowds, she notes that it’s not just the typical political hacks or activists, as they typically are early in the cycle. She’s seeing Iowa voters who are engaging earlier than the last cycle.

“It wasn’t like this in 2015,” said Rosfjord. “In the beginning, you’re not expecting big crowds. It’s normally an evolution. But this year, everyone is in tune.”

Foster is one of those “in tune” voters. She and her family pulled up to Harris’ Bettendorf town hall more than an hour early, but the parking lot was filling up on a below-freezing day in Iowa. Inside the convention center, a crowd of expectant attendees filled the foyer.

“It’s quite a while before the doors open,” said Foster. “I’m excited. This is great. I really can’t wait!”

Trump is noting the Democratic crowds, especially at the launch rallies of the contenders. The President, attuned to the size of his own crowds, acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that Harris’ launch rally in Oakland, California, last month had “a better crowd” th