The Democratic Party needs rural votes to secure a decisive victory in the race for the presidency, and to win back the Senate and make real progress in the fight for the House of Representatives. That’s a powerful lesson from recent election cycles. When President Obama won a decisive victory eight years ago, Democrats made major inroads in rural America:Two hundred and thirteen rural counties and 49 exurban counties flipped from the Republican column in 2004 to the Democratic column in 2008. But in 2010 and again in 2014, Republicans swept rural regions. With an assist from gerrymandering, Republicans won dozens of congressional seats and hundreds of state legislative seats in rural areas that were once safely Democratic. As The Washington Post noted just before the 2014 election, “There really are two Americas. An urban one and a rural one.”
In 2016, Democrats need to combine expected strength in urban areas with renewed outreach to rural regions, where a multiracial, multiethnic base of voters could play a pivotal role in races up and down the ballot.