Monday, October 20, 2014

Nonmetro Voters Supported Cantor

06/12/2014

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Conventional wisdom says that Rep. Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary to a more conservative candidate thanks, at least in part, to the preference of rural voters.

It’s a hard conclusion to draw from the facts, however.

The data is scant, but what there is paints a much more complex picture about the preferences of rural and metropolitan voters in Virginia’s 7th District congressional race.

Cantor, considered a shoo-in in his GOP primary, lost to tea-party challenger Dave Brat by a whopping 12 points, 56-44%.

The New York Times reports that one cause (admittedly, among several) was that Cantor is Jewish and therefore “was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative,” according to David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

At the county level in Virginia’s 7th, there’s not a lot of rural data on which to base that conclusion. But what there is points in the other direction.

Out of 65,000 votes cast in the primary, only about 4,400 came from nonmetropolitan counties (Louisa and Orange). The rest came from counties in metropolitan statistical areas.

But of those 4,400 nonmetro votes, Cantor won 52%, versus Brat’s 48%.

That’s right. The man who allegedly lost because his district was redrawn to include more rural voters actually won the vote in the most rural counties in his district.

That doesn't add up.

The general consensus is that Brat’s surprising victory in a low-turnout race shows that politically hard-core voters didn’t like Cantor’s stand on immigration reform, and they thought he wasn’t hard enough on President Obama, Time reports.  

If that’s the case, then voters in suburban and urban counties were more upset about Cantor’s behavior on those issues than voters in rural counties were.

And if, as Wasserman asserts, Cantor's religion was a factor, you sure can't tell if from the nonmetro voting results.

We’d temper this conclusion by saying county-level voting tallies are a pretty rough approximation of rural and urban political differences at the level of congressional districts. And, again, the number of nonmetro votes was small – only about 7% of the total.

But if rural voters were really categorically “culturally disconnected” from Eric Cantor, you’d expect it to show up in the nonmetro county vote.

It didn’t.

 

Comments

Brat v. Cantor

CNN reported that Virginians who were polled favored immigration reform; and that cantor's loss was more because he had been spending too much time in leadership and not paying attention to folks back home.

Boconnor in Virginia writes:

Your column leaves out a very important fact:  in Virginia, people can vote in either party primary, regardless of which party they are registered with. 

There's a good chance that Democrats showed up to vote against Cantor because they believe that (a) it will be easier for the D candidate to beat anyone other than Cantor come November and/or; (b) even if Brat beats the D candidate, he will have much less power in Congress than Cantor would if he stayed.

 

If that's the case, the people who voted against Cantor did so because they are liberals who are willing to risk the unknown rather than leave Cantor in office.

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