In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.
Steve Peoples at AP:
Barack Obama won 875 counties nationwide in his overwhelming 2008 victory. Twelve years later, Biden won only 527. The vast majority of those losses — 260 of the 348 counties — took place in rural counties, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.
The worst losses were concentrated in the Midwest: 21 rural counties in Michigan flipped from Obama in 2008 to Trump in 2020; Democrats lost 28 rural counties in Minnesota, 32 in Wisconsin and a whopping 45 in Iowa. At the same time, recent Republican voter registration gains in swing states like Florida and North Carolina were fueled disproportionately by rural voters.
Biden overcame rural losses to beat Trump in 2020 because of gains in more populous Democratic counties. Perhaps because of his victory, some Democratic officials worry that party leaders do not appreciate the severity of the threat.
Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who recently announced he would not seek reelection to Congress this fall, warns that the party is facing extinction in small-town America.
“It’s hard to sink lower than we are right now. You’re almost automatically a pariah in rural areas if you have a D after your name,” Cooper told The Associated Press.
Even if Democrats continue to eke out victories by piling up urban and suburban votes, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota fears her party will have “unstable majorities” if they cannot stop the bleeding in rural areas.
“Democrats have the House, they have the Senate, the presidency, but it’s an unstable majority. By that, I mean, the narrowest kind, making it difficult to advance ideas and build coalitions,” said Heitkamp, who now heads the One Country Project, which is focused on engaging rural voters.