Friday, July 10, 2015

Democratic presidential candidates not reaching out to rural areas, rural campaign veterans say

Rural campaign veterans say Democratic presidential candidates have made little effort to reach farm and rural votes, Jim Webster reports for Agri-Pulse. In 2007, then-Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards all competed "aggressively for farm and rural votes—especially in the early caucus state of Iowa."

"Fast forward eight years and there is no apparent evidence of Democratic campaigns gearing up to organize an appeal to rural voters," Webster writes. "The lack of activity concerns veterans of Obama's 2008 rural campaign effort, which was credited with helping him carry the Iowa caucuses and hold down Republican margins in 2008."

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from January of 599 counties classified as Rural Middle America found that 40 percent of respondents had a negative view of Hillary Clinton, compared to 53 percent for President Obama. Despite those numbers, some say Clinton has done little to campaign in rural areas, which typically vote Republican.

Marshall Matz, Washington attorney who co-chaired the Obama rural committee that grew to more than 300 by 2008, told Webster, “Making an effort does make a difference. Even in counties where Democrats are not going to win, mitigating the loss can be significant. Even though the farm vote is getting smaller, it is important for Democrats to focus on rural states and counties because it can take pressure off the urban vote. For example, in Pennsylvania, the better the Democrats do in the central part of the state, the less pressure on Philly. Mitigating the loss in rural counties is just as important as the size of the plurality in the cities. Democrats seem to forget that.”

Matt Barron, president of MLB Research Associates, a political consulting and rural strategy firm in Chesterfield, Mass., told Webster, “Republicans see rural as agriculture; Democrats see rural more holistically.” Another campaign veteran, who asked not to be identified, told Webster, “I was very hopeful about Hillary Clinton, but I'm not feeling good yet.” (Read more)

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