One week on from the November election, it's become quite clear that the Democrats had an excellent election--better than it initially appeared on election night. But what of rural areas? The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats kicked ass in urban and suburban areas while losing ground in rural America.
Just one problem: It's not true! While Democrats certainly didn't "win" rural areas, they didn't lose ground either. In fact, they gained ground. Consider the following.
1. Yair Ghitza of Catalist has showed that Republican candidates at all levels systematically did worse in rural areas than Trump did in 2016.
2. Researchers at the Atlantic found that Democrats gained more ground (relative to 2016) in pro-Trump manufacturing counties and Obama-Trump counties than they did in majority-minority counties. In fact, Democrats flat-out carried the vote in Obama-Trump counties and were basically back to 2012 levels of support in these counties.
3. Daniel Block on the Washington Monthly site notes that:
"On the whole, Democrats performed better in rural areas during these midterms than in 2016, which helped the party win some of its most consequential victories....
Among Wisconsin counties with fewer than 55,000 residents (a larger number for a much bigger state), Evers lost with 43 percent to Walker’s 55.8 percent. But he would have lost the entire election had he performed as poorly as Clinton, who was defeated in these counties 37.8 percent to 56.5 percent. Matching Clinton’s vote share would have cost him 29,537 votes. If even five percent of these lost votes went to Walker, Evers would have been defeated. If Walker had matched Trump’s 2016 Wisconsin rural showing, he would have won reelection by 2,307 votes."
So progress was made in rural areas in 2018. Democrats should seek to continue that progress in 2020 and avoid the temptation to write these areas off because that's the other side's territory. That didn't work in 2016 and it won't work in 2020 either.