Rural Kansans are independent thinkers



October 29, 2018 - 10:45 AM

Like Napoleon, Hillary Clinton’s long career ended in Waterloo. Only in her case, it was Waterloo, Iowa. She trailed Barack Obama’s 2012 totals by 9 percent in Waterloo’s Black Hawk County, helping President Trump win the White House, which he did by capturing votes in areas that Democrats overlooked.

In fact, Iowa, our almost-neighbor, had one of America’s largest swings from Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. How — and where — did it happen, and what does that mean for Kansas this year? For one thing, it means that on Election Night, Lyon County is one to watch — an electoral battleground, the Iowa of Kansas.

In Iowa, the 2016 race was not won or lost in the state’s more-populated, Democratic strongholds like Polk, Johnson, and Story Counties (Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames, respectively). These areas did not shift much between 2012 and 2016, going almost as strongly for Hillary as they had for Obama. Instead, Hillary got shellacked in Iowa’s rural counties. In many, support for Democrats dropped 15 percent or more between 2012 and 2016. Most of those rural areas had voted for Romney in 2012 — but the huge drop in Democratic percentage, in many cases going from the mid-40s to less than 30 percent in only four years — was pivotal. These are the places where many Obama-to-Trump voters live, and those voters are the ones that decided the election. Similar patterns are evident in larger states like Ohio.

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