The 2008 national elections are finally over, except for the "wining" (celebrations) and the whining. While Barack Obama claimed America's coastal metro regions as his own, election results showed that he made significant inroads into rural and suburban areas that traditionally have been deep-rooted Republican turf.
That's the word from the Center for Rural Strategies, a communications and analyst organization based in Knoxville, Tenn. In October, the group conducted a rural tracker survey in rural parts of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. What they found carried through in November's election.
Barack Obama decreased his party's losses in rural and exurban America while substantially increasing the Democratic vote in the cities over the totals from 2004. Four years ago, George Bush ran up large margins in rural and exurban counties to overcome John Kerry's 3.7 million vote advantage in the cities.
This year, according to the Center's analysts, Bill Bishop and Tim Murphy, Obama managed to tamp down the Republican advantage in rural and outlying suburban (exurban) areas. Obama's improvement in rural areas was especially pronounced in the hard-fought-for battleground states.
Nationally, John McCain won all rural counties by 13 percentage points. In battleground states – those states that John Kerry lost by 15 points in 2004, Obama reduced this deficit to just 7 percentage points.
Nationally, Obama won 43% of the rural vote (non-metro counties). He won 40.7% of the exurban vote.
The Obama campaign strategically plucked votes out of rural states. And, according to Bishop and Murphy, the campaign focused particularly on rural counties with colleges or universities.