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Romney rural vote was different in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida

The importance of the rural vote to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was demonstrated by his victory in North Carolina, the only swing state he won, and by the difference between the urban and rural vote in Ohio and Florida, noted Bill Bishop, co-editor of the Daily Yonder, an online newspaper that publishes the Center for Rural Strategies polls and analyses.

Romney built up nearly a quarter of a million vote lead in Ohio’s rural and exurban counties, but Obama won 344,000 more votes in the cities and won the state by just more than 100,000 votes, Bishop wrote last week.

Bishop also noted that the statewide vote in Ohio was down more than a quarter of a million from 2008, and that the drop in the rural vote was greater than the statewide decline.

“That’s a decline of 4.5 percent from ’08 to ’12,” Bishop said. “The rural vote was down by just over 5 percent; 53,000 fewer votes were cast in rural counties this year compared to four years ago.”

Bishop also noted that of the three southern states among the swing states —Virginia, North Carolina and Florida — President Barack Obama lost only one.

“Obama lost North Carolina because the rural and exurban vote in that state is larger than in the other two southern swing states,” Bishop wrote.

The results in North Carolina and Florida showed that exurban voters — parts of metropolitan regions where about half the people live in rural settings — are more stalwart supporters of the GOP than rural voters, he said. The gap between the cities and rural areas is wide and widening in the South, he added.

In Virginia, Bishop said, there was a nearly a 20 point gap between the parties in rural and exurban counties and the gap widened between 2008 and 2012. Obama won 42.9 percent of the rural vote in 2008, but only 39.9 percent in 2012, he said.

Romney won North Carolina in 2012 because its rural and exurban vote is 47 percent of the total, much higher than in most states. (The rural vote alone is 28 percent).

Romney got 57.2 percent of the rural vote and 59.7 of the exurban vote in North Carolina, about the same as his national average, but that vote was more important because it was a higher percentage of the state total, according to Bishop’s calculation.

In Florida, Romney got 63.1 percent of the rural vote and 61.6 percent of the exurban vote, but together they account for only 19 percent of the total in that state.

In Virginia, the exurban and rural vote made up 26 percent of the total votes.