For months, Democrats have been telling Obama that he can attract rural voters if he will spend time with them, but with only two months left until the election, more disinterested experts say he should limit such efforts to key battleground states. His rural strategy could depend on what Republicans do in the coming week to 10 days, former former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, a Panhandle cotton farmer, told Garrett. "Some of it is going to depend on who McCain picks; it’s going to depend on what kind of rural program that Obama’s going to have and what kind of rural program that McCain’s going to have," Laney said.
Yesterday, at a meeting of the Rural Caucus at the Democratic convention, "Obama surrogates talked jobs, health care and rural highways," Garrett reports. "Outdoors TV show host Tony Dean, a lifelong Republican, said he’s switching parties to head a Sportsmen for Obama group. Mr. Dean said he’s '99 percent sure a President Obama isn’t going to infringe on gun rights.' Austin author and rural online newsletter editor Bill Bishop, though, said Mr. Obama won’t make much headway on issues alone." In his recent, well-reviewed book The Big Sort, Bishop "argues 'lifestyles' have crowded out philosophy as the key factor in voters’ decisions." (Read more)
In his own publication, the Daily Yonder, Bishop notes that Sen. Hillary Clinton "ran strongest in rural communities" and "One worry among Democrats is that Obama has failed to consolidate support among Democratic voters." He cites this comment to The Washington Post's Alec MacGillis and Paul Kane:
"Jim Beasley, the commissioner of Ohio's Department of Transportation, did not have high hopes for Obama in his area of southern Ohio. "Ahhh, well. Rural Ohio will be difficult," he said. "Rural areas are difficult for him.'"MacGillis and Kane talked to swing-state delegates at the Rural Caucus and other gatherings and found that some "do not share Obama's confidence that he can overcome the resistance many voters may have to electing a black president with an unusual background and name." From their story, here's another example from Ohio:
Sarah Hamilton, a Clinton supporter who works for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, linked Obama's challenges in the state to the resistance that other Democratic presidential candidates have faced in trying to trump social issues with economic ones. "I really think it still has to do with 'Gods, guns and gays.' You bring in his race, and the Muslim rumor, all these things are factors that are easy to play out in the rural areas," she said.