Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Rural Voters Key to Battleground Races in November's Congressional MIdterm Elections

I love this.

From Josh Kraushaar, at National Journal, "Over half of this year’s toss-up races are in districts with a sizable rural constituency. That reality makes holding the House—or even staying within striking distance—more challenging for Democrats":

The story of Democratic success since the Trump era has been one of political shifts in the suburbs. Well over half of President Biden’s voters in 2020 hailed from the suburbs, and he won suburban voters by a whopping 11 points. Of the 41 House seats Democrats picked up in the 2018 midterms, 38 of them were located in predominantly suburban districts. The suburbs remain the preeminent battleground in the country, as Republicans in 2022 gained back much of the ground they lost with Democrats.

But in this year’s House races, a disproportionate number of battleground races are taking place in either rural districts or districts with a significant rural segment. Of the 20 races that are ranked as toss-ups by The Cook Political Report, over half have a sizable rural constituency. It’s a reminder that Democrats can’t take rural America for granted, at least if they hope to hold a House majority for the long term.

Several of the rural House battlegrounds are newly drawn districts, like North Carolina’s 13th, which combines the burgeoning, Democratic-trending Research Triangle exurbs with the deep-red rural outposts of Harnett and Johnston counties. One is a brand new seat, Colorado’s 8th District, which includes parts of Weld County where “cattle sun themselves on grazing land and feedlots,” as The Denver Post put it. Others have always been competitive, like Maine’s expansive 2nd District, home to one of the most independent-minded Democrats in the House.

The best chance for Democrats to hold down their losses this year is to win many of those seesawing suburban seats. But even if they make a miraculous suburban turnaround, they still could lose their majority by failing to hold onto the smaller number of rural seats held by their party. As national Democrats cater to urban, progressive interests, they’ve all but abandoned the rural constituencies that once made up a major part of their coalition.

As former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock warned in The New York Times: “The Democrats are in trouble in rural America, and their struggles there could doom the party in 2022.” He urged Democrats to “show up, listen, and respect voters in rural America” by finding common ground instead of talking down to them. A good start would be to spend time investing into the pivotal competitive House races taking place there....

If the Democratic Party can’t moderate its message on social issues, for instance, it’s easy to see even the most adept lawmakers getting swept up in the tide. The first step to getting things right is recognizing that, as important as the suburbs are, Democrats can’t write off rural America entirely. A winning political message for Democrats is one that accommodates their coalition to the interests of those being left behind..