Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tuesday's primaries suggest that rural voters are not predictable

Tuesday's primary elections for Congress confirmed once again that rural and urban voters often choose different candidates. Rural voters were anything but predictable, Bill Bishop reports in the Daily Yonder. In Kentucky's Republican primary for the Senate, tea party advocate Rand Paul defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had claimed an endorsement from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell in the race for Sen. Jim Bunning's seat. "The Tea Party, conventional wisdom says, is strong in largely white, rural areas," Bishop writes. "Yet Rand Paul gathered his lowest vote totals in rural Kentucky where the turnout was highest."

Paul won 63 percent of the vote in cities compared to 54 percent in rural counties, which boasted the state's highest turnout rates. He took 66 percent of the vote in exurban counties. The Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard and Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville was cast as rural-vs.-urban, and voting reflected that divide. Conway, who won the nomination, took 54 percent of the vote in cities but just 36 percent in rural counties.

Meanwhile, "The Pennsylvania contest to fill the seat in Congress held by Democrat John Murtha was held in the 99th most rural district" out of 435 in the House, Bishop writes. "It was a traditionally Democratic district, but Republicans thought they could pick it up, largely because 37 percent of the voters lived in rural areas." Instead, Democrat Mark Critz, who is pro-life, pro-gun and anti-Obama health bill, beat Republican Tim Burns, who became involved in politics through the tea party. The Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania saw U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak defeat incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, who had defected to the Democratic Party. Sestak, the more liberal candidate, won his highest percentage of votes in rural counties, Bishop reports. He took 59 percent of the vote in rural Pennsylvania compared to 53 percent in urban areas.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas was cast as the more conservative candidate in her primary race, which will go to a runoff because neither she nor Lt. Gov. Bill Halter got 50 percent of the vote. Halter, who is supported by labor groups, earned his highest percentages in rural counties where he took 43 percent of the vote, Bishop reports. Lincoln did best in cities. (Read more)

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