Something we’ve been saying since 2016 is that Democrats don’t need to win back every rural county. What they have to do is show up, articulate a vision, win where they can, and squeeze the margins everywhere else. Last night in Kentucky, Governor-elect Andy Beshear drove our point home.
There’s a few ways to define rurality, but any way you slice it Kentucky is near the top. Just over 40% of the population lives in rural areas. Any candidate has to consider their path to victory as they step into a campaign. For a Democrat in Kentucky, your first step is likely knowing you can win commandingly in Fayette and Jefferson County with strong margins, netting you near 250,000 votes. To win the state, you’ll need about 500,000 more. Where do you find the rest?
Here’s how Beshear did it: He drove up urban margins, won rural counties where he could, and squeezed the margins everywhere else. He showed up, worked hard, campaigned on things people cared about, and won with just over 5,000 votes. Of course, any analysis like this doesn’t do justice to the hard work and sacrifices made by the candidate, staff, and volunteers over the course of the campaign. But Beshear and his team knew that victory was going to demand that they hold the line in those rural counties. And they did.
Democrats can’t view the next round of elections as one or the other — urban voters or rural voters, the rust belt or the coastal strongholds. It has to be all of the above. In the statewide and national races ahead of us in 2020, that’s how you piece together an electoral college win and take back the Senate.