Mike Tomasky reminds us on The Daily Beast of the importance of the rural and small town vote to Democratic prospects, especially if the economy softens:
"Rural America is hurting big time, and in any recession, it’s bound to be the hardest hit. Farmers are feeling the effects of Trump’s tariffs, but it isn’t just farmers. Opportunity has all but vaporized in a lot of these places. Democrats need to do something about this.
They don’t talk enough about rural and small-town America, and it’s probably because they don’t get many votes there. But they can change that. And if they want to beat Trump, they have to. Yes, turnout among core Democratic groups has to be maximized. That’s a given. Everybody understands that.
But everybody doesn’t understand that very often, the difference between winning an election and losing one is the difference between getting totally swamped in small towns and running competitively there. No Democrat is ever going to win in small towns (with the exception of college towns). Guns and cultural issues will see to that. But the key thing is to get 40 percent there instead of 25....
Whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will need to emulate [Sherrod] Brown. The way to do it is through economics. There should be no compromising on guns or other such issues. That will only alienate the base. And again, the point isn’t to win these areas. It’s just to convince 10 or 15 percent of the voters that you care about them and will try to bring some opportunity back to their towns....
The plans [to help rural areas] are there on paper. But the Democrats also need to learn how to talk country again. The speaker is from San Francisco, the Senate leader from Brooklyn, and the leading candidates for the nomination are from Boston, San Francisco, and Wilmington (okay, but it’s still a city). Nothing against these people or these places. But the party’s identity is almost totally urban. If there is a recession, and if the Democrats want to take full political advantage of Trump’s woes, they’ll need to work to change that a little."
I think Tomasky has this exactly right. The point is, indeed, not to win these areas but simply to reduce your losses, to run at least somewhat competitively. That can make a huge difference in the elections in some very important states and, with the proper approach, it shouldn't even be that hard to do.
One caveat here though. Tomasky makes ti sound more daunting than it is! Rather than running at 40 percent support instead of 25 percent. which sounds like a fairly heavy lift, it is really more like running at 36-37 percent support instead of 32-33 percent support (the situation in 2016). That should be enough to make a real difference.