Roundup: Rural Election Edition
News and commentary about the midterm elections and how the results affect, and were affected by, rural America.
Late-night returns from outlying districts fueled a Republican victory in the Minnesota state House, reports the Minneapolis Post. Briana Bierschbach reports:
In all, the GOP picked up 11 seats, making most of their gains in rural and outstate Minnesota districts,” “When all the votes are tallied and finalized by the Secretary of State’s office, Republicans will have likely moved from a 73-61 minority to a 72-62 majority.
“It really was a metro-rural split tonight,” [House Minority Leader Kurt] Daudt said of the result. “A lot of these rural Democrats came to St. Paul and voted with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Democrats and unfortunately they paid the price in their districts.”
Republican lawmaker Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake, Minnesota, tweeted: “This election should be a wakeup call to all state leaders! Do not turn your back on greater Minnesota!!”
Democratic commentator Matt Barron says Democrats have themselves to blame for poor performance among rural voters in this week’s election. In his opinion piece in The Hill, Barron writes:
The Democrat’s problems with rural folks … are due to a variety of factors ranging from recruiting poor candidates, not showing up in small towns to campaign, hiring urban-centric consultants who have no dirt under their nails to bad mapmaking as a result of the 2010 redistricting.
Barron says there were good issues for Democrats to campaign with in rural areas. For example, Arkansas’ Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, whose committee work helped fund popular rural programs like broadband expansion and the Extension Service, lost to Republican Tom Cotton, a member of Congress who voted against the farm bill. In Iowa, Senator elect Joni Ernst (Republican) said she opposed the farm bill and didn’t support wind power. Barron tracks a similar theme into gubernatorial races in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
In rural Minnesota, where Democrats lost control of the state House, Nancy Larson, a former Democratic National Committee member from tiny Dassel, was trying to figure out why rural voters continue to vote against their own economic interests. "Minnesota is doing great but we're losing everybody in rural," Larson said, adding "our message must not be connecting, people aren't connecting the dots."
To us, such observations restate the obvious power of culture and identity in politics. People vote their tribe as much as their candidates’ policies.
The Keystone XL pipeline could be a hot-button issue when the new Congress convenes with a Republican-controlled Senate in January, reports the Omaha World-Herald website.
Nebraska Senator elect Ben Sasse (Republican) campaigned for the pipeline, defeating Keystone opponent David Domina (Democrat) by a 2 to 1 margin. Domina represented landowners who have stopped the development of the tar-sands pipeline through Nebraska pending a decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The pipeline also awaits approval from President Obama. But the new GOP majority in the Senate has some leaders thinking they could force approval of the pipeline over the president’s objections.
[Party leaders have] already identified approval of the crude oil pipeline as an early priority, [the Omaha newspaper reports].
“We will pass a budget in both chambers number one, and we will pass the Keystone pipeline number two,” Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said earlier this week on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”
An obstacle for pipeline supporters has been they lacked the 60 votes necessary to cut off a filibuster. Tuesday’s election result changed the balance of power on the issue.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, poised to lead the GOP majority in January, told Time magazine on Wednesday that the pipeline will be one of a handful of items the Senate will “very likely” vote on early next year.
Among Republicans calling for an end to pipeline delays are Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who have co-sponsored a Senate bill to authorize the project.
Ernst replaces outgoing Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who opposes the pipeline. Sasse will assume the seat of Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a pipeline supporter. Voters in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia elected Republicans who will replace Democratic opponents of the pipeline.
Also in Nebraska, Republican Pete Ricketts defeated Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, a long-time rural advocate and former head of the nonprofit Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons.
The demographics of the 2014 election were much like the turnout in 2010, reports the Pew Research Center. Midterms typically see an older turnout, and 2014 was no exception. The Pew Center also found that the so-called “gender gap” (where women are more likely to vote Democratic) was in force at just about the same levels as 2010. Presidential elections typically see a younger turnout, which tends to favor Democratic candidates.
Stories before the election focused on how the rural vote might be one key to the results. Here’s an example from Kentucky. In reality, Republican candidates in key Senate races won their races in the cities and merely racked up a little margin among rural voters.
Republican Senate candidates won pluralities or better among metropolitan voters in Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Colorado. North Carolina was an exception, as we reported yesterday. Democrat Kay Hagan narrowly won the urban vote there, but not by enough to overcome the Republican Thom Tillis’ advantage among rural voters.
Rural voters weren’t “spoilers” but were part of a larger trend in support of Republican candidates.