Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa caucuses put spotlight on farm and rural vote

Our friends at the Center for Rural Strategies got some great play for their seven-month-old poll in today's Wall Street Journal. Previewing today's Iowa caucuses, reporter Amy Chozick used the survey to show that "rural states may be most receptive to the Democrat who wins the nomination." That would be a shift from the last two elections, in which President Bush's margin among rural voters was key to his victories.

Chozick reports two reasons for the shift: Democratic support for a Farm Bill that includes "controls on big agribusiness companies and subsidies for farmers," and the poll's finding that "nearly 60 percent of all rural U.S. citizens are close to, or related to, someone serving in Iraq." For such people, "This is not a television war, " Chris Peterson, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, told the reporter. For the pollsters' memo about the survey, click here.

Chozick reports that former Sen. John Edwards has "the advantage for farm votes" in Iowa. "He draws huge support in agricultural areas, where fans relate to his background and anti-corporate message," she writes, but adds, "Mr. Edwards's opponents aren't ceding the rural turf." New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has farmers from her state touring Iowa to say how she has helped them, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama "has introduced a package of farm- and rural-development policies, including plans to rejuvenate rural communities by cultivating alternative energies such as wind farms and ethanol." But she adds, "Mr. Obama raised eyebrows in Adel when he asked a crowd of poor farmers: 'Anybody gone into a Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?' The upscale organic-supermarket chain doesn't have a single store in Iowa." (Read more; subscription may be required)

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