As Democrats sort through the wreckage of their loss in Virginia, a familiar feeling is creeping over the dwindling number of rural officials left in the party: They have seen this show before.
Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s performance in the suburbs, where he clawed back ground former President Donald Trump and the GOP had lost in recent elections, got the most attention before and after election night. But another key ingredient of his victory was blowout strength in the rural areas of the state, drawing high turnout, setting new marks for Republican support and squeezing Democrats to record-low shares of the vote in small county after small county.
Now, some Democratic operatives and politicians focused on rural voters say their party needs to wake up. Without investing more in organizing and outreach to address new lows with rural voters, critical elections in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states President Joe Biden narrowly won could slip away from the party next year. Recent struggles in states like Ohio and Iowa could solidify into ceding those places long-term.
“What happened in Virginia and New Jersey is a warning sign for what will happen in every statewide election, either U.S. Senate or any statewide office, because the only way you win statewide in a red or purple state is by getting at least 30 to 40 percent of the rural vote. And we used to be able to get that,” said Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party chair. “Why don’t we anymore? We’ve completely lost touch with them.”
NEW HOPE, Pa. — The Democrats of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, felt the red wave building over the summer when frustrated parents filled school board meetings to complain about masking requirements and an academic theory on systemic racism that wasn’t even taught in local schools.
They realized the wave was growing when such concerns, fueled by misleading reports on conservative media, began showing up in unrelated elections for judges, sheriff and even the county recorder of deeds. And so they were not surprised — but devastated all the same — when Democrats all across this key county northeast of Philadelphia were wiped out in Tuesday’s municipal elections.
“This is a bell we need to pay attention to. This is something going on across the country,” said attorney Patrice Tisdale, a Democrat who lost her bid to become a magisterial district judge against a Republican candidate with no formal legal training. “The Democrats can’t keep doing politics as usual.”
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