Iowa Independent: Rural voting expert: ‘Just like you’ effect not as compelling this year

Iowa Independent

Rural voting expert: ‘Just like you’ effect not as compelling this year

In these increasingly anxious times, rural Americans won’t be as focused on the personality appeals that worked for George W. Bush in the last two elections, says an expert on rural voting patterns.

“The whole luxury of trying to find a president just like you may have worked under a certain circumstance,” Peter Francia, an East Carolina University political science professor, told the Iowa Independent

Francia predicts McCain will still win in rural America. The Center for Rural Strategies recently released a poll showing the Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin picking up support over Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But McCain has less of a lead this September than President George W. Bush did over John Kerry at around the same time in the 2004 election.

“The question is whether he wins rural American by a bigger margin than George W. Bush,” Francia said.

Francia said McCain is clearly going to continue attacking Barack Obama’s character, and going with the patriotism angle.

“That message plays well in rural America,” Francia said.

This cycle is challenging to compare to past ones because of the unprecedented strength of Obama’s grass-roots organizing and voter registration efforts.

There is still a “Bubba factor” in play.  White working class/rural voters may not be fessing up to pollsters about the racism that will ultimately inform their votes in November, Francia said. But Obama may have the organization to counter that.

“We’ll have to see which way that tug of war (goes),” Francia said.

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