Handicapping the rural elections, especially downballot… Or at least trying to make sense of the polling!

Been waiting for some post convention “bump” polling of the now 3 or 4 way presidential race to appear, and we now have good polls from several midwestern states with results broken out for rural areas. Wish we had polling for my home state of Minnesota, but as we’re not one of the ten or less states that anacronism called the Electoral College lets decide the presidential race, so we haven’t been polled in months. So we’ll have to look to nearby states for direction.

Iowa’s been polled to death for a couple years now, and Suffolk University has now given us polling results for 3rd and 4th party candidates Johnson and Stein as well as Clinton and Trump, broken down by region of the state. Statewide, Clinton leads with 36%, Trump 37%, Stein 3%, and Johnson 6%. In the most rural region of the state, northwest Iowa, part of R+5 CD4, Clinton gets 24% support, Trump 50%, Stein 1%, and Johnson 6%. Clinton did even worse in almost as rural southwest Iowa, getting only 17% support while Trump got 50%, Stein 2%, and Johnson 11%. Polling the senate race, Suffolk found incumbent Grassley got 52% statewide, 64% in northwest Iowa, and 61% in southwest Iowa. Challenger Judge gets 41% statewide, 32% northwest, and 33% southwest. Sounds like just what the DNC and Hillary campaign predicted, a rural republican landslide justifying disinvestment in rural campaigning. Iowa is D+1 statewide and northwest Iowa’s 4th district is R+5, so one would expect democrats to average 6% worse there than they do statewide… But there’s a twice as large 12% gap between Clinton’s statewide and rural northwest Iowa performance, and senate challenger Judge does only slightly better with a 10% gap. The one conclusion we can draw is the effect the 3rd party candidates are having- Johnson and Stein are syphoning off 9% statewide and 13% in rural southwest Iowa from the major party candidates.

Before you shut down your rural campaigns and prepare for republican rule of our rural habitants, lets look at some Wisconsin polling. The University of Marquette has recently done four candidate polling of the presidential race as well as the senate race there. Statewide Clinton leads with 47% followed by Trump with 34%, Johnson with 9%, and Stein with 3%. In the senate race, incumbent Johnson trails challenger Feingold in a rematch, 42% to 53%. Marquette splits out results by urban, suburban, and rural and I like that better because predominately rural regions of state still have fair sized cities in them like Council Bluffs and Sioux City. None the less, Clinton’s performance falls of by 12% in rural Wisconsin and Trump’s improves by 10%. In the senate race, Feingold’s performance drops by 8% in rural Wisconsin while Johnson’s improves by 7%… About in line with the difference between the statewide PVI of D+2 and rural congressional district PVIs in the R+2 to R+13 range. Johnson’s support is remarkably consistent across the state, ranging from 8% to 10% regardless of urbanity or lack thereof. Stein’s support varies more, from 2% in urban areas, 3% in the ‘burbs, and 4% rural… Who’da thunk it, a Green doing best in the country? Set aside Clinton’s poor rural performance, and the Wisconsin race looks like we’ve customarily expect, with Feingold taking a slight but not insurmountable loss in rural Wisconsin.

No recent 4 way polling from any of Minnesota’s other neighboring states, so let’s leapfrog over to (what’s wrong with) Kansas. Survey USA does nice breakouts of their polling results both by region and urbanity, and they just polled R+12(!) Kansas. At 44%, Trump leads Clinton at 39% by only single digits, with Johnson at 8% and Stein not tested. In rural Kansas, Trump performs 10% better and Clinton 9% worse, 54% to 30%, or about what you would expect statewide in this R+12 state! The senate race more follows the PVI, with incumbent Moran leading challenger Weisner 52% to 36% statewide and 54% to 23% in rural Kansas. Given that much of rural Kansas is in R+23 CD1, that’s still a good performance for a democrat.

So for the benefit of the DNC and Clinton campaign folks who probably ain’t reading’ this blog anyways, the results from Wisconsin and especially Kansas are a reminder that rural democratic campaigns are not wasted. Heck, Kansas has even disproven the theory that Clinton is the weakest candidate on the democratic slate! So if even Clinton can pull within an R+2 1/2 (5%) of Trump in an R+12 state, clearly democrats can win up to R+5 and even R+10 races this year, if given the chance and support. And the only safe prognostication is that the 3rd and 4th party candidates will play a huge role in breaking down party identification… Here in Minnesota’s R+6 CD7 with a republican base vote of around 35%, another 15% to 20% of republican “leaners”, unable to stomach Trump, will vote for Johnson or Stein at the top of the ballot. Then they’ll cross over and vote for long term incumbent democrat Peterson. And having voted their conscience and maybe pocketbook against their own republican party’s top two candidates, they may say “ta heck with it” and vote for democratic legislative candidates next. Or maybe they’ll feel guilty and give the rest of the republican candidates down ballot their vote, or maybe they’ll split their ballot again…

All we can safely predict is that with two unpopular presidential candidates, two spoiler candidates who may in fact take 2nd place in a few demographics, and a farm crisis in the making?… We can’t predict anything. Remember that the top of the ticket is a 4 candidate race with some informal “fusion” coalitions possible. and DNC, just support our democratic candidates and quit trying to pick winners and losers! And if you think this cycle is unpredictable, just wait for 2018 where we may see the two major parties disintegrate, replaced by short lived coalitions on the left and secretive “Citizens United” big $$$ groups on the right…

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