|Shift in presidential margins, 2016-20; blue arrows show Democratic shift and red arrows Republican. Arrow length is strength of shift. New York Times map; click image to enlarge it or click here for interactive version with county-level data.|
One thing the 2020 election has made clear: rural areas are becoming increasingly Republican.
In Oklahoma, for example, Democrats controlled the state legislature for nearly a century, mostly with lawmakers from rural areas (though it should be noted that "Democrat" has not always meant "liberal"). But "on Tuesday the party transition in Oklahoma became complete when the last Democrat from a rural district lost his reelection bid while the GOP picked up five more House seats to extend its advantage over Democrats to 82-19," Sean Murphy reports for The Associated Press.
Matt Meredith, a two-term state representative who lost his seat to a Republican challenger by more than 10 points, said he was swept up in the tide of Oklahomans voting for national politics. "There were mailers sent out with me and (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and me and (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer," Meredith told the AP. "I've never even met Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer."
Trump solidified Republicans' hold on rural Iowa, possibly helped by messaging about the economy. "The president dominated in rural counties that he took from the Democrats four years ago," Chris McGreal reports for The Guardian. "Opinion polls said that in recent weeks voters’ primary concern shifted from coronavirus to the economy which helped swing independent voters the president’s way to supplement his core support."
Though Iowa was not a critical state for Biden, "his failure to significantly reduce the size of Trump’s 2016 victory there is evidence that the Democrats failed to persuade swaths of rural America that the party had much to offer them or was even paying attention to their communities and concerns," McGreal reports.
Trump saw only weak rural gains from 2016 in crucial battlegrounds Michiga Wisconsin, which helped flip those states blue, Tim Marema, Tim Murphy and Bill Bishop report for The Daily Yonder.