Loss of Virginia exposes Democrats’ struggle with rural voters

Virginia’s gubernatorial race this week underscored Democrats’ struggles with rural voters after open margins in the southwestern part of the state condemned the former governor. Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffe Democrats brace for a flood of retirements after Virginia’s defeat McAuliffe’s loss exposes a deepening Democratic gap The memo: Democrats go to war for ‘awakening’ MORE (D) to defeat for the governor-elect Glenn youngkinGlenn Youngkin Democrats brace for a flood of retirements after Virginia’s defeat McAuliffe’s loss exposes a deepening Democratic gap The memo: Democrats go to war for ‘awakening’ MORE (R).

Youngkin’s stunning victory over McAuliffe in a place the Republican Party had not won statewide since 2009 has Democrats scrambling to shore up their defenses ahead of next year’s by-elections given the race’s reputation as a landmark. Democrats insist that if they hope to remain competitive in state races in 2022, they must reduce margins in the same types of sparsely populated but numerous rural counties that Youngkin won by as much as 75 points.

“I think it was predictable. I think the party has put all its eggs in the suburban-urban basket and it really hasn’t done the kind of appropriate outreach that they need to do, ”said the former senator. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp Washington’s oldest contact sport: Lobbyists mobilize to dilute or kill Democrats’ tax bill Progressives prepare to launch a counterattack in the tax fight Business groups aim to divide to Democrats on the .5T Spending Bill PLUS (DN.D.), who lost his seat in a rural state in the 2018 midterm elections. “You can’t be a majority party in this country without doing better in rural America.”

Examples of the McAuliffe explosion by Youngkin in rural Virginia counties were scattered across the state.

In Lee County, Youngkin won by a whopping 88-12 margin, beating the former President TrumpDonald TrumpNASCAR seeks to distance itself from Republican rallying cry ‘Come on, Brandon’ Jan. 6 panel weighs contempt after brief statement to former Trump Justice Department official Clark Broken promises: Veterans health care is being replaced by the private sector MOREThe 84-15 margin there just a year ago. In Dickinson County, Youngkin ran 61 points ahead of McAuliffe, compared to Trump’s 58-point victory last year. And in Mecklenburg County, Youngkin extended Trump’s 15-point margin to a 32-point victory.

While the trend was most pronounced in Virginia, it was not confined to the state.

The least populated counties in New Jersey experienced a similar phenomenon in a surprisingly competitive race for governor than the governor. Phil MurphyPhil Murphy Memorandum: Democrats Go to War for ‘Awakening’ House Passes Trillion Infrastructure Bills, Advances Social Spending Plan Policy 101: Lessons from Virginia, NJ Ahead of Mid-Season Elections 2022 period PLUS (D) exceeded by only 2 points.

Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli won Salem County by 29 points, compared to just 12 points for Trump last year, and Cumberland County won by 12 points thereafter. President BidenJoe BidenHouse Passes 1 Trillion Infrastructure Bills, Advances Social Spending Plan Virginia Democrats Concede Loss of State House Liberals, Moderate Strike Deal on Biden’s Agenda, Clearing the Way for MORE votes took the same area by 6 points last year.

Democrats don’t expect to win many of the rural counties in which they were destroyed this week because of their deep red hue. But they say losing by such wide margins is unsustainable in state races.

“You can’t lose 65 or 70 percent rural counties and still not lose an election. We have to do everything we can to try to reduce those margins. And that’s difficult, and it’s not necessarily a lot of fun, but it has to happen, ”said Patty Judge, a former Democratic Iowa lieutenant governor who co-founded the Focus on Rural America group.

The need to perform better in rural counties was highlighted by falling margins for Democrats in suburban counties that made their way during the Trump administration.

In Loudoun County, McAuliffe won by just 10 points after Biden defeated Trump there by 25 points in 2020. In Chesterfield County, outside Richmond, Youngkin won by 5 points after Biden won there by 6 points.

Those changes back to the Republican Party underscored the need to cut losses in rural areas, where open margins could force Democrats to win suburban counties through spreads that are not always feasible.

“You can’t get so dependent on the suburbs. It wasn’t that long ago that Democrats didn’t win the suburbs, ”said Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D), whose district includes Bath and Alleghany counties, who went for Youngkin by 59 and 50 points, respectively. “You cannot become so dependent on one party, on one voter, that you ignore the needs of the other.”

Democrats remembered the senator. Mark WarnerMark Robert Warner Hillicon Valley – The Race to Report Cyber ​​Violations Senators move to include a 72-hour timeline for reporting cyber incidents in the Defense Bill Progressives Declare Victory in Fighting the Defense Bill expenses PLUS(D) surprisingly narrow re-election bid in 2014 in which he defended himself against Republican Ed Gillespie by less than one point. During that campaign, Warner was criticized for spending significant time in southwest Virginia, but that strategy was later credited with saving his seat in a year in which Republicans won a majority in the Senate.

“People were criticizing Senator Warner for spending too much time in Southwest Virginia and other redder rural areas of the Commonwealth, when in reality, he was probably the opposite,” said State Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-Va.), Who Lives in Accomack County, which went by Trump by 9 points and then by Youngkin by 23 points. “The fact that he spent time in those areas probably kept those margins low and prevented him from avoiding a surprise surprise.”

The need to outperform rural voters is greater than ever before the 2022 midterm elections, where Democrats are defending seats in places like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, places with sprawling rural areas and suburban counties. Biden won those states, as well as other battlefields, in part by winning more voters in rural counties than Hillary clintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton National Defense & Security Overnight – Washington gathers for Colin Powell’s funeral. made in 2016.

Democrats insist that while it may be difficult to broaden its appeal, there is an openness with rural voters. A poll by One Country Project, which was co-founded by Heitkamp, ​​said that while 57 percent of rural voters think the Democratic Party is not considering their way of life, 50 percent think the same of the Republican Party. .

Half a dozen Democrats who spoke to The Hill unanimously said that enacting progress in Washington is key to showing rural voters how policies translate into real-world improvements, and lawmakers and agents consider the infrastructure bill and the party reconciliation package as a good start.

“We need to speed up a bit, speed up our pace. And we do it, in my opinion, by having some tangible results that we can say, ‘This is what the Biden administration has done,’ ”Judge said. “But the traffic jam has to start moving to start changing public opinion.”

Beyond that, Democrats said their messages have been stuck on facts and figures rather than values.

Heitkamp pointed to the current reconciliation package as an example of a missed opportunity for messaging as Democrats publicly reject what to include and remove.

“Instead of providing 400 facts about why it makes sense to do paid family leave, it’s about talking about the values ​​of paid family,” he said. “When your argument is intellectual, you are losing. When your argument is something that can reach people, and they can nod their heads and say, ‘yeah, that’s what I think is a good thing, because it reflects who I am as a person and my values,’ I think we really are. bad at value-based discussions. “

However, not all issues are created equal in attracting rural voters.

Democrats have inherent disagreements with many rural voters on cultural issues like abortion, guns, and more. However, some Democrats expressed confidence that as long as their positions on those issues are not too “extreme,” voters will put their pockets first.

“Guns are a lightning rod,” Lewis said. “We passed three very important gun reform laws in the last year that I supported, and they were moderate laws and very well thought out. People may disagree with you on that, but they won’t use it if you have a compelling economic case or a persuasive public education case. “

However, to get those messages across, Democrats said one of the most important things is simply to be more present in the communities where they are fighting. Democrat after Democrat who spoke to The Hill lamented that candidates do not campaign in rural areas except around Election Day, and that by then it is too late.

“We tried to get the greats to come and greet us,” said Mecklenburg County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeff Stratford, detailing his struggles to get Democratic candidates from across the state to show up in his county cities. “Guess who passed and hit all those places? Mr. Youngkin “.

“I think this is what bothers people,” he added. “Throughout the year, nobody gives a damn about the people who are here. But at the time of the elections, they want your vote ”.


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