I write this blog for rural democrats and it’s been a boring spring on the campaign trail in rural northwestern Iowa where Hillary bombed so badly that few democratic presidential candidates show their face here. Seems a year ago that I laid down my standards for supporting a candidate- Electability and the ability to help our whole democratic slate in rural America, rural experience, public policies that would preserve family farms and small towns, and just plain being authentic.
While I’d love to endorse the pride of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, like most of the candidates she’s polling in the low single digits, and a couple other candidates come to mind that would be great on rural issues but haven’t a chance of winning Iowa, never mind the endorsement. Fact is, at this point a candidate needs to be polling consistently in double digits so we’ve got Bernie, Elizabeth, Joe, Kamala, and maybe Pete as viable candidates to choose from. I’ve been digging through the crosstabs of every poll that breaks out results by geography and Bernie and Joe do best in rural areas, after that the rest fall off a polling cliff to the point where they could lose the election… The Electoral College doesn’t give extra credit for winning California by a landslide, and many of the 10 or so swing states are rural.
Bernie wins on rural experience by a 4 minute mile, though in their defense almost every democratic candidate has wandered outside the SMSAs and voted for family farmers and small towns.
Of the viable candidates, up until today only Bernie had a detailed rural policy posted on his website for all to read, and it’s detailed enough to leave no big ag monopoly undisturbed. Joe finally popped out a rural policy today, it’s a lot more comprehensive than Hillary’s and unlike her’s it doesn’t read like the writing of a Big Ag lobbyist, but I doubt they’re worried. Should be interesting to see if it stays pinned on Joe’s website or is another disposable PR. Elizabeth has made some moves in the right direction with a stop at the big rural forum in Storm Lake a few months back and dropped a PR on rural issues ‘bout then too, but apparently rural issues aren’t important enough to merit a page on her website. Looking at the rest of our viable candidates, it’s been crickets from Kamala and Pete.
And finally authenticy, and there are lessons here from 2020… While rural voters turned on Hillary for her sense that the presidency was owed her, Bernie beat her even in many conservative rural districts because he was an upfront democratic socialist for decades and didn’t have to check the political wind direction before deciding where he stood on an issue. Bernie leads again for just plain being Bernie, Joe isn’t quite the debacle Hillary was but the campaign seems like deja vu, and Elizabeth is a cool grandma but a New England prof ain’t gonna have an easy time winning over rural America, though to her credit her campaign is organizing in little towns in northwestern Iowa that every other campaign has written off. And Kamala and Pete? Please get your rural act together just in case you win the endorsement, we don’t need another Hillary to drag the whole democratic slate down in rural America!
So rural democrats have two good candidates, Bernie and Joe, and maybe a third in Elizabeth…