The Democrats put a lot of faith in the Latino vote; which in fact was justified. The Latino vote was up considerably. Unfortunately, however, for Hillary Clinton, white rural voters had an even bigger moment.
Now Democrats are second-guessing the campaign’s decision to largely surrender the rural vote to the GOP. With their eyes turned anxiously to 2018, they’re urging a new strategy to reach out to rural voters to stave off another bloodbath when a slew of farm-state Democrats face tough reelection battles.
“Hillary lost rural America 3 to 1,” said one Democratic insider, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign. “If she had lost rural America 2 to 1, it would have broken differently.”
After years of declining electoral power, driven by hollowed-out towns, economic hardship and a sustained exodus, rural voters turned out in a big way this presidential cycle — and they voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, fueling the New York City real estate mogul’s upset victory. The billionaire New Yorker never issued any rural policy plans, but he galvanized long-simmering anger by railing against trade deals, the EPA and the “war on American farmers.”
When Trump’s digital team was analyzing early absentee returns in swing states, they weren’t fixated on what turned out to be an overhyped Latino voter surge. They were zeroing in on signs of an “extremely high” rural turnout, said Matthew Oczkowski, head of product at Cambridge Analytica, who led Trump’s digital team.
The Trump campaign had banked on a strong showing from what it called the “hidden Trump voters,” a demographic that’s largely white, disengaged and non-urban. Based on that premise, they weighted their polling predictions to reflect a higher rural turnout. The surge, as it turned out, exceeded even their expectations.
The rural voting bloc, long a Republican stronghold, has shrunk dramatically over the years, as farms have become more efficient and jobs have migrated to cities and suburbs. About 20 percent of the country, just less than 60 million people, live in rural America. This year, rural voters made up 17 percent of the electorate, according to exit polling.
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