Tuesday, November 25, 2008

County Flips, the Rural Vote, and Changes Out West

During the primary season, I came across the great site Daily Yonder which focuses on rural politics, economics, and society. The site is on outgrowth of the Center for Rural Strategies. In the aftermath of the election, Tim Murphy and Bill Bishop put together the above map that shows the counties that switched their vote between 2004 and 2008. The provide analysis here and here. While Obama's strength was certainly in the urban cores of the country, he did improve upon Kerry's performance in rural counties. Looking at the counties that flipped this year, the midwest was clearly Obama's strength. While his Illinois performance is unsurprising, the Wisconsin changes jumped out at me immediately after November 4 (see earlier post here). Also, as we know, Indiana (post here) and Iowa changed hands this year helping Obama solidify the entire region. I'm curious about the Democratic gains that took place in the string of counties running along the Minnesota/Dakotas borders. Finally, I'd note the Democrats' improved performance in the mountain west, a dynamic that has gotten a lot of play this year. A couple of points about the mountain west:

  • Beyond the pickup of Colorado and New Mexico on the presidential level, Democrats gained Senate seats in both states.
  • Democrats gained 5 seats in the House (2 in New Mexico, and 1 each in Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona). Democrats now have a majority in the House delegations of AZ, CO, and NM and split evenly with Republicans the Idaho delegation.
  • Obama actually won Salt Lake County, Utah. While Utah's electoral votes won't change hands anytime soon, this flip was nonetheless pretty interesting.
  • Note the rural county pickups in Montana. In the end, McCain ended up winning the state by only about 12,000 votes.

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