Will Clinton’s Voting Record Hurt Her in Rural?

Despite less-than-stellar voting on issues that affect rural residents, Clinton's performance against Barack Obama in rural counties during the 2008 primaries was strong. So do these issues even matter to primary voters? Remember 2008.

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voting_button_final-01The astute political observer (and longtime Yonder friend) Matt Barron wrote recently that Democrat Hillary Clinton could have a tough time with rural voters because of some votes she made as a U.S. Senator from New York.

Barron points to three votes she made that worked against rural communities. One had to do with Medicare reimbursements and the other two dealt with renewable fuels.

Do these kinds of issues affect primary voters? Well, now might be a good time to review the results from 2008, long after Clinton’s votes as a U.S. Senator. Clinton and Barack Obama squared off in a string of Democratic presidential primaries then — and Clinton was the clear favorite of rural Democratic voters.

The geographic contrast between Clinton voters and Obama voters was stark. In rural Texas, 61 percent of Democrats voted for Clinton; only 33 percent sided with Obama. The results were more lopsided in the Ohio primary, where Clinton won 64.4 percent of the vote.

On Super Tuesday in 2008, when more than 20 states held primary elections and caucuses, Clinton won 55.3 percent of the vote in rural counties while Obama won just 38 percent. Obama, meanwhile, won urban counties by three percentage points.

(The state-by-state Super Tuesday results from 2008 can be found here.)

Obama did best in the most Democratic counties. In counties where John Kerry defeated George Bush in 2004, Barack Obama won 69 percent of the 2008 primary vote. Clinton won 31 percent. Clinton, meanwhile, had a large advantage among Democratic voters living in “red” America, where Bush beat Kerry.

Remember, Kerry beat Bush in the country’s most urban counties.

The Clinton campaign in 2008 concentrated on rural and exurban counties and smaller cities. She and her surrogates went to towns outside the major metros.

“Clinton, en route to a projected statewide victory, easily captured a county she wooed earnestly – she sent her husband, her daughter and dozens of out-of-state campaign volunteers to work phones and knock on doors,” reported Paul A. Anthony of the San Angelo Standard Times in the oil, gas and cattle pastures of West Texas. “It was clear from the first reports that Clinton’s significant efforts in San Angelo had paid off, likely aided by the large number of Hispanics and elderly voters, which are two of her key constituencies.”

Clinton’s 2008 primary success came after her votes on rural Medicare reimbursement rates and ethanol. But this is a new primary with new opponents. The current Clinton campaign may realize that winning rural votes is not enough to win the nomination — that a large majority of Democratic voters live in urban neighborhoods.

The Daily Yonder will be keeping track of the geography of the primary vote once tallies begin coming in from Iowa.

 

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