We’re not in full panic mode yet because there are plenty of other issues where Democrats give these people the middle finger, but there were signs that the party made something of a white rural comeback in some crucial races. John Fetterman, though handicapped by a severe stroke, was billed as someone who could reach these voters as he didn’t come off as snobby, pretentious, and grossly condescending like the rest of the Democratic Party. Fetterman dressed like a working man but had the political compass of a left-wing zealot. Still, word on the street was that national Democrats were still not keen on Fetterman but opted not to get involved in the Senate primaries and let the chips fall as they may. It paid off, but the flip side is that Democrats have performed so poorly in rural counties that there was no other way to go but up (via Axios):
A new analysis of the midterms by centrist Democratic think tank Third Way finds that most Democratic candidates improved on President Biden’s 2020 performance in rural America — with some notable exceptions.
By the numbers: Pennsylvania Sen.-elect John Fetterman was one of the party’s top rural success stories. He outdistanced Biden by seven points in the state’s rural counties — overperforming Democrats more in the state’s rural counties than in the suburban and urban centers.
In the Georgia runoff, Sen. Raphael Warnock underperformed Biden by 1.8% in the state’s rural counties, even as he overperformed the president by 5.3% in the urban counties.
Among Senate candidates, the party’s top overperformer in the suburbs was Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, who ran 4.7% ahead of Biden.
Between the lines: Biden’s rural performance in 2020 was a low point for Democrats, so there was plenty of room to improve.
Biden’s 2020 numbers with these voters were below sewer level, and some GOP-nominated candidates weren’t ready for primetime. Pennsylvania Gov-elect Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, ran as a centrist. Whether he governs that way is another story, but overall, his campaign was just better run than that of Republican Doug Mastriano. Four counties that broke for Trump in the Keystone State—Beaver, Luzerne, Cumberland, and Berks—voted for Shapiro in 2022.
Rural voters drifted into the GOP camp due to the Democratic Party’s hard left shift on cultural issues. It gave them a steroid boost of support in the urban areas, especially with white, wealthy, and college-educated voters, but it led to a massive dip in white working-class support, which for decades formed the party’s backbone. National Democrats let that atrophy, which allowed Trump to clinch an upset win over Hillary Clinton. Yet, as many have noted, these folks are the successors of the Ross Perot coalition. They’ve voted for both parties and will quickly change allegiances if they feel one side has a better message on any given day. In 2018, many Trump supporters backed Democrats in the midterms.
Democrats will overplay their hand with the 2022 election results and will undoubtedly go back to their ways of bashing white people, further alienating this voter base that numbers in the tens of millions. But the GOP should take this as a lesson that Democrats can find candidates who can win back these voters in rural America, that it’s not a lock for them. Every vote is up for grabs in any given year. On top of that, where it’s legal, the GOP must get into the ballot-harvesting game. After two election cycles, it’s clear that we cannot bank on Election Day votes to bail us out anymore, especially in states where this form of quasi-voter fraud is permissible.