November 2, 2006


Winning Small (BRIAN MANN, 11/02/06, NY Times)

Majorities in Congress aren’t formed by the national zeitgeist, as Mr. Rove cheerfully points out. They are built one race at a time. And in dozens of close contests this fall, the outcome will be determined largely by one often-overlooked minority group: the mostly white and mostly conservative voters who live in America’s small towns.

Residents of rural areas make up only a fifth of the country’s population. That’s a little less than African-Americans and Hispanics combined. But unlike voters in those minority groups, small-town whites are often kingmakers in national politics.

In 2004, they voted for George W. Bush by nearly a 20-point margin. Newspapers ran headlines that baffled their urban readers: “Rural Values Proved Pivotal,” “Conservatives in Rural Ohio Big Key in Bush Victory,” and “G.O.P. Won With Accent on Rural and Traditional.”

This year, those same right-leaning small towns make up a major voting bloc in a half-dozen make-or-break Senate races, like those in Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia. They also dominate battleground House districts throughout the country, from Idaho to northern New York. If rural America embraces Republicans with the same fervor it did two years ago, Democrats will almost certainly be denied a majority in the Senate and may fall short in the House.

In part, the electoral importance of small towns reflects a profound rural bias hardwired into our political system. The Constitution grants two Senate seats to each state regardless of its population. As a consequence, a majority of senators are elected by voters in 26 sparsely settled states that together contain less than 18 percent of the country’s population.

Mr. Mann's own book on rural America suggests why the GOP will never lose the filibuster electorally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2006 8:24 AM
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