If unemployment decides this election, then the President is doing well in Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Romney can score points in North Carolina and parts of rural Virginia, Ohio and Colorado.
The presidential election will be decided in just a handful of swing states, it appears. And the vote in these states will swing to a certain extent (nobody knows exactly how much) according to the state of the local economy.
There are rural voters in each of the swing states. (They are Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.) And the economic situation from state to state varies dramatically.
The map above shows the unemployment rates in the rural and exurban counties in the nine swing states. Blue counties had unemployment rates below the 8.2 percent national average in August (the latest for which county data are available). Orange counties had unemployment rates above the national average.
Click on the map to see a much larger version.
You can see why Obama feels more confident in Iowa, which is doing relatively well. And the President is running behind in North Carolina, in part, no doubt, to the rotten unemployment figures in the state’s rural and exurban counties.
Southern Virginia is doing poorly — and we’ve seen a lot of attention there from both campaigns.
Mitt Romney has been talking about coal and mining jobs, an appeal that must resonate in southern Ohio and southwestern Virginia. Romney has been making similar arguments in rural Colorado, which shows signs of a weak economy.
Rural Florida is not doing particularly well, but we haven’t seen a response aimed at these rural counties as of yet.
The rural economies in Wisconsin and New Hampshire look stronger than the nation as a whole.