Poll shows Republicans may face uphill climb in rural areas
Rural Republicans face continued political problems next year, a new poll suggests. Traditionally Republican rural voters well could back a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, the Center for Rural Strategies poll indicates. "As we move int...
Rural Republicans face continued political problems next year, a new poll suggests.
Traditionally Republican rural voters well could back a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, the Center for Rural Strategies poll indicates.
"As we move into the 2008 presidential season, rural America is poised to be a battleground, particularly as urban areas remain solidly Democratic," Republican pollster William Greener and Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg wrote in analyzing the results.
"This research shows ongoing problems for the Republican Party, propelled by a strongly negative view of the Bush administration, doubts about the war and, arguably as important looking ahead, a broad sense of economic frustration and economic squeeze in this part of the country," the two said.
The Center for Rural Strategies regularly polls rural America on political issues.
"The rural vote is a lynchpin for both parties," said Dee Davis, president of the nonpartisan center. "We hope the importance of rural voters translates into a full and open discussion about the future of rural America, because frankly I'm not seeing that in the debate at this point."
The poll showed a Democratic presidential candidate could win rural America next year, given low approval ratings - due in large part to the Iraq war - for Republican President Bush.
So far, the poll shows rural voters are lukewarm, at best, toward any presidential candidate of either major party.
Mark Drake of the Minnesota Republican Party said he is not worried about rural America switching parties.
"Republicans are going to continue to do well in the rural areas because Democrats continue to be quite out of touch with rural people on issues such as gun rights and abortion..." Drake said. "Democrats don't really relate to people in rural areas."
One of the Legislature's top rural Democratic strategists, Rep. Al Juhnke of Willmar, said local politics will be more important in the election than the Iraq war. For example, he won six elections while Bush and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty won his district.
Still, Juhnke added, national politics play a role, as they did last year when the war hurt Republican candidates. "That exact same issue is going to be here in 2008.
"What we are looking for is a change election again," Juhnke said "Unless you can paint yourself as a candidate of change, you have problems."
A liberal Democratic presidential candidate would be good news for Republicans.
"I think Hillary Clinton is going to be a tough sell in a lot of the rural parts of the state," Drake said. "You will see a lot of Democrats try to run from Hillary Clinton."
Drake said the poll is premature 17 months before the election: "The war is going to play a role in the race. How large a role is to be determined."
(Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Park Rapids Enterprise.)