Monday, June 18, 2012

Rural-urban tensions in the 2012 elections

Don't miss Ari Shapiro's recent NPR story on the efforts by Romney and Obama to woo rural voters.  Here's the lede:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in New Hampshire on Friday, back at the farm where he launched his presidential campaign one year go.

"In the days ahead, we'll be traveling on what are often called the backroads of America," he said.  "But I think our tour is going to take us along what I'll call the backbone of America."

It was the first stop on a five-day bus tour that will take him to small towns.  The former Massachusetts governor's campaign is calling it the "Every Town Counts" tour. 
Shapiro goes on to label both Romney and Obama "city slickers," but Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture and Chair of Obama's Rural Council, is quoted as touting Obama's agricultural and rural accomplishments, documented in this recent report.  Vilsack says the report is essentially the Obama plan "for revitalizing the rural economy."  Meanwhile Jim Talent, a former U.S. Senator for Missouri, spoke of  Romney's plan for rural America, referencing "more oil and natural gas drilling, lower taxes and deficit reduction."
"Folks in rural America understand you can't borrow your way to prosperity, and they know that for themselves, and they know it for the federal government as well,"  says Talent.  
Shapiro's story also quotes Dee Davis of the Center for Rural Strategies.  Among other things, Davis says he doesn't expect Obama to do as well among rural voters in 2012 as he did in 2008.

Away from the Presidential campaign, another important race this year is that to be U.S. Senator from Nebraska.  Joe Bai wrote a feature about the race in the New York Times Magazine this week.  Bob Kerrey, a decorated Vietnam veteran, the state's youngest governor, and the U.S. Senator from Nebraska until 2001, is the Democratic nominee facing Republican Deb Fisher, who has strong Tea Party backing.  Though Kerrey is a Nebraska native, he has lived for the past decade in New York City, where he has been president of the New School.  So, he can be cast as something of a carpet bagger, especially compared to Fisher, a rancher from Valentine, population 2,737.

Valentine is the county seat of the largest county in Nebraska, Cherry County, on the South Dakota state line.  The entire county's population is just 5,713, and its population density is a mere 1 person/square mile.  The New York Times ran this story about Fisher two weeks ago, calling her the "G.O.P's Best Bet" in the Senate race.  Fisher and her New Jersey-sized district were also mentioned in this June 2011 story about the waning power of rural legislators in state houses.

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