Country Fried Elephant
For all the talk over the last decade about the political importance of fast-growing suburbs and exurbs, there's been another story that has often been missed: steady Republican gains in rural and small-town (or micropolitan) America. While rural areas have often continued to lose population, and small towns, overall, have shown little growth, the percentage of the vote given to the GOP in non-metro America has steadily risen.
As a new survey done for the Center for Rural Strategies by Anna Greenberg, David Walker and William Greener shows, that trend appears to be reversing itself this year. In 2000, George W. Bush carried rural America by 16 percentage points; his margin increased to 19 percent in 2004. In the new survey, Democrats are leading Republicans among rural voters by 13 points in 41 highly competitive House districts, and by four points in six states with close Senate races. Both findings show a significant trend towards Democrats over the last month. Democratic gains, moreover, are coming mainly from independent and moderate voters.
Greener, a Republican pollster, said of this survey: "The numbers in this poll have to be disturbing to any Republican involved in the upcoming election." And Center for Rural Strategies president Dee Davis noted that the current trends among rural voters resembled those that immediately preceded the elections of Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992.
If countrified voters are abandoning the GOP this year, then Republicans may truly be country fried on election day. --