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Rural Minnesota will make or break gay marriage vote • Billy Edd Wheeler • The 12 counties that could swing the Iowa results • Mitt Romney on wind tax credits

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Rural Minnesota is “likely to be the deciding ground in November for the intense campaign over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage,” writes Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Baird Helgeson. 

In other states, votes on similar kinds of amendments “have shown a stark, and decisive urban-rural contrast,” Helgeson writes. “It’s absolutely vital to do well in rural areas,” said John Davis, a political consultant from Raleigh, N.C., a state that passed a similar amendment. “Very clearly, there was a vivid rural and urban divide.”

A group opposed to the amendment is recruiting preachers to speak out. “We are not going to cede the religious vote again,” said Kate Brickman, spokeswoman for Minnesotans United, a group opposing the amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

• We’re for this. Farmers in the United Kingdom are using llamas as guard animals against humanoid crooks. 

Llamas are extremely alert. They make a startling alarm call when an intruder comes on to their turf. And there are reports of llamas giving chase to those who come into their domain. 

• The Des Moines Register examines the 12 counties in Iowa that swing in presidential elections. These counties could be the key in what is a very close contest between Mitt Romney and President Obama in this state. 

Chris Clayton at DTN reviews the recent research on climate change (global warming). He writes that although nobody is likely to change his or her mind, “these kinds of studies should be raising more questions in agricultural policy about what we are doing as a country to protect our farm and ranch production from the long-term effects of this climate change.” 

• Ingham County, Michigan, voters will decide tomorrow if they will impose a tax that will help pay for bus rides for elderly, disabled and rural residents. 

The tax is small, but without it, the county may have to restrict rides in rural areas.

• Gotta like that Kansas is allowing its counties to experiment with ways to boost turnout in this week’s primary election. For example, some counties are allowing people to vote at county fairs

“Urban voters in Johnson County typically turn out in a smaller percentage than the rural voters in the far-flung corners of the state,” said Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “We have given counties a certain amount of discretion and leeway in how to do it. Some counties have come up with innovative and distinctive ways to generate turnout.”

• The New York Times reports that county and state fairs are also victims of the heat and drought. Monica Davey writes:

Across the nation’s middle, it is fair season — the time of year when rural life is on proud display, generations of farm families gather and deep-fried foods are guiltless.

But at county and state fairs across corn country this year, the most widespread drought since the 1950s is also evident. While the fairs are soldiering on, dousing themselves in Lemon Shake-Ups and Midwestern resolve, the hot, dry, endless summer has seeped into even the cheeriest, oldest tradition.

“You see the stress of this all on individuals everywhere you go — even the fair,” said Vivian Hallett, who most years has entries (and winners) in nearly every imaginable plant category at the Coles County Fair in Illinois. Not this year.

“We just didn’t have the stuff,” said Ms. Hallett, 65. “All our pumpkins have died. Zucchinis? Dead. Our green beans are just sitting there turning rubbery. And my gladiolas never came up at all.”

• Yes, the emails from presidential candidates come in swarms, like locusts. We get so many desperate-sounding emails from President Obama we think the White House must be on fire. ProPublica collected 600 emails sent from the Obama campaign, most in the last three months. 

The Washington Post writes that the emails are coming in such torrents that they are turning off voters. 

• NPR had a good story about one of our favorite songwriters, Billy Edd Wheeler. 

Wheeler is from West Virginia, went to school at Berea College in Kentucky. He knows about coal and coal miners. He wrote the best coal mining song ever, “Coal Tattoo.” Listen to it here. In more modern versions, the verse about duplicity by the United Mine Workers in the early 1960s is excised. The real lyrics are here; it’s the last verse that modern singers leave out. 

Wheeler tells NPR that there is no longer a place in country music for his kind of songwriting. 

• Nice video here from Nebraska about a cookout held in Spalding to thank state senator Ken Haar for his effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline routed around the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills. 

• Army Sgt. Michael Ristau was welcomed home to Cascade, Iowa, Saturday. Ristau was killed July 13 in Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan. 

The town put up 2,500 flags in Cascade, more flags in the town than people. See photo above. 

• Republican Mitt Romney has been insistent that he will allow the tax credit for wind energy to expire. Denver Post editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard explains:

Is Mitt Romney trying to blow it?

That’s the question that came to mind last week as his campaign repeatedly asserted his opposition to an extension of the production tax credit for wind energy.

The credit, which is set to expire at the end of this year, helps the fledgling industry compete with other forms of energy. It has notable bipartisan support both in Colorado and nationally.

But Romney ‘will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,’ a spokesman for the candidate’s Iowa campaign told The Des Moines Register.

So stunned was Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, about the presumptive GOP nominee’s stance on the issue, that he told reporters in Washington, ‘I think people that didn’t know what they were doing said it.’

The Des Moines Register’s editorial page didn’t like Romney’s stance either: 

It makes sense to use the tax code to encourage investment in wind power, which has many things going for it. Wind is a renewable source of energy, and it causes no harm to the environment to harness its power to turn generators and produce electricity. Any movement away from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity — namely coal and natural gas — should be encouraged.

• A private builder plans to construct an east-west toll road through the middle of Maine. 

The $2 billion project would run 220 miles across the state, the first east-west road of any size in Maine. Opponents say the road would destroy what makes Maine Maine.

“It would just completely change ‘the way life should be,” said Chris Buchanan, referring to the state’s unofficial slogan. Ms. Buchanan is the statewide coordinator for Stop the Corridor, a coalition opposing the highway.

“Maine is a rural state,” she said, “and this is a businessman who is trying to make it the Northeast trade gateway.”

Of course, that’s the idea of developers who are hoping to link Maine seaports to Canada and the rest of the interior.

• The Omaha newspaper looks at the contrasting campaign styles of Senate candidates Deb Fischer (Republican) and Bob Kerrey (Democrat). 

Fischer: After more than a year on the campaign trail, Fischer is honing her style. She is a direct, no-nonsense politician whose stump speech contains few rhetorical flourishes and who efficiently works a room, listening more than talking to prospective voters.

Despite the miles she has logged and her stunning come-from-behind-win in the Republican primary, Fischer remains a relative unknown to many voters — even though she is the clear frontrunner. In some ways, she is almost an after-thought to those who have focused on her better-known opponent, Democrat Bob Kerrey.

Kerrey: The former political wonder who charmed Nebraskans with his wit in the 1980s still has “the magic,” the ability to soften skeptics and energize crowds. One on one — in person — Kerrey is a force on the campaign trail.

But there is only so much of Kerrey to go around, and he is bucking a head wind of anger from many Nebraskans who resent his comeback bid. He is no longer a popular incumbent but the underdog fighting to keep the U.S. Senate race on the state’s radar. 

The anger aimed at Kerrey — he’s been flipped the bird a few times at parades — runs directly back to New York City. Many Nebraskans resent the idea that the Democrat could fly back to the state, register to vote and run for his old office after living 12 years in another state. 

 

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