Democrats See Rural Gains Bolstering Fight For White House In 2020

Democrats made dramatic gains in this month’s U.S. congressional elections despite getting little love from white, rural, working-class voters who two years ago backed President Donald Trump.

But the party is convinced it made important inroads in rural America - an argument supported by a Reuters analysis of election results.

Democratic sources cite wins in places like upstate New York, Iowa, Maine and Pennsylvania as evidence the party has found a populist platform that connects with those voters and could help it retake the White House in 2020.

As of Tuesday, Democrats had captured 36 seats in the House of Representatives, building a majority that will enable them to thwart Trump’s agenda and launch investigations into his administration. Republicans retained a majority in the Senate.

Beyond the victories, Democrats increased their share of the vote in dozens of the country’s most rural congressional districts, a Reuters analysis shows.

Compared to 2016 election results, they posted gains in at least 54 districts where the share of households in rural areas was at least 39 percent, or twice the national average, even though they only won a handful of the districts.

That could bode well for Democratic efforts to win the White House and retake the Senate in 2020.

Still, the road to Democrats’ new House majority mostly ran through cities and suburbs, while Republicans held on to the vast majority of rural districts they were defending.

Democrats lost two tight House races in Minnesota in largely rural districts and the governor’s race in Iowa, reaffirming Republicans’ edge in those regions.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign, said Trump voters who backed a Democrat in 2018 easily could return to Trump in 2020.

“People want a check on the president,” O’Connell said. “These voters are very open to flipping back.”

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

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