Rural Votes are Crucial to Presidential Campaigns — Money Not So Much

Presidential Campaign ContributionsRural America has 26 percent of the nation’s population, but when it comes to funding presidential campaigns, rural Americans are hardly big givers. In the latest reporting period, only five percent of the money collected by candidates has come from rural places and, surprisingly, most of those donations have gone to Democrats.


Presidential Campaign ContributionsVotes of rural Americans decided the last two presidential elections and will be crucial in the upcoming contest. But thus far city-dwellers and donors, not country ones, are paying the cost of the 2008 campaigns.

A Daily Yonder analysis of recent campaign contributions finds that while 26 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural communities, residents in these rural counties donated only five percent of the total contributions given to presidential candidates. The DY study covers donations reported in the first quarter of this year — a total of $114.3 million collected by 17 candidates. Of this sum, only $6 million came from people living in rural communities. (Here’s the Daily Yonder’s definition of what’s rural.)

Per capita, rural Americans gave eight cents to presidential candidates; city residents gave fifty-two cents, six times more.

Democrats are out-fundraising Republicans in rural communities, according to the Yonder’s analysis. Democratic candidates took in 55 percent of the $6 million raised from rural residents in the first quarter of 2007; 45 percent of the total went to Republicans. The Democrats’ lead in rural fundraising is the mirror opposite of the presidential vote outcomes of 2000 and in 2004; in both elections, Republican George W. Bush won nearly 60 percent of the rural vote, support that was crucial to his victory. (Political scientist Seth McKee concluded that “in the 2000 and 2004 elections, Republican George W. Bush would not have won the presidency if not for the support he received among rural voters”¦.”)Party Contributions

Where the votes from rural America have been decisive in the general election, the ability of rural Americans to shape campaigns through contributions in the long preamble to the 2008 Election Day is, so far, minor — a nickel to the city donors’ 95 cents.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, gathered the largest amount of contributions from rural counties. Romney, who headed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, raised just over $214,000 in the first reporting period of 2007 from Summit County, where many of the athletic events took place. (The Daily Yonder will report the states and rural counties that gave the most to presidential candidates later this week.)

Former North Carolina senator John Edwards ranked second, collecting donations across the nation. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, ranked third in contributions from rural communities, attracting hefty contributions in the southeastern counties of his home state. Members of the oil and gas business have been active in raising money for Richardson in the area around Hobbs, Roswell and Carlsbad, according to New Mexico press reports. Richardson raised $270,500 from Lea County alone, the largest contribution from any rural county. Lea’s support for Richardson came despite the county’s Republican voting record. In 2004, George Bush received 80 percent of the vote in Lea County.

The frontrunners in both the Republican and Democratic parties have received only mediocre financial support from rural counties. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton are leading all the polls nationally in the Republican and Democratic primaries. Yet Clinton ranks fifth among the 17 candidates in financial support from rural counties, Giuliani ranks seventh.
An accounting of how much each of the 17 presidential candidates collected from rural America in the first quarter of this year can be found below. And here is a ranking of rural contributions by state, from Texas, which donated the most, to Alaska, whose rural residents gave a total of $4,400.
NOTE: This analysis was conducted by Tim Murphy, an Athens, Ohio, geographer, using candidate contribution files collected by the Federal Election Commission.

Rank Candidate Party All Counties With Donors Rural Counties with Donors Total Raised From Rural Counties
1 MITT ROMNEY Rep 690 302 $1,147,925
2 JOHN EDWARDS Dem 794 385 $1,067,770
3 BILL RICHARDSON Dem 388 136 $895,699
4 BARACK OBAMA Dem 750 339 $601,491
5 HILLARY CLINTON Dem 579 221 $572,155
6 JOHN S. MCCAIN Rep 689 294 $554,395
7 RUDOLPH GIULIANI Rep 593 223 $450,696
8 MIKE HUCKABEE Rep 112 50 $150,226
9 RON PAUL Rep 258 82 $97,509
10 CHRIS DODD Dem 234 31 $83,650
11 SAMUEL BROWNBACK Rep 262 79 $78,268
12 TOMMY THOMPSON Rep 58 24 $67,706
13 TOM TANCREDO Rep 205 64 $51,270
14 JOE BIDEN Dem 221 21 $50,650
15 DUNCAN HUNTER Rep 103 22 $37,150
16 JAMES GILMORE III Rep 43 16 $36,500
17 DENNIS KUCINICH Dem 89 25 $28,700