A recent poll suggests that rural America is in play for Democrats in the 2008 presidential election, and a survey of references to ‘rural’ in the six presidential debates thus far demonstrates that Democrats are discussing rural issues more often than their Republican counterparts.

The lack of attention rural America receives in politics is instantly recognizable. After three Republican debates, McCain wins the rural advocate award for mentioning how “business, farm, and family in America” would be affected by adjusted taxes. Mitt Romney comes in a close second for almost promoting an agricultural policy with not one but two mentions of “embryo farming.”

Democrats have been more steadfast in their mention of ‘rural’ several times in all three debates. Obama was the first candidate to highlight rural issues, including medical care and poverty, in the first and second debates. Clinton and Richardson joined him with discussions regarding Wal-Mart and rural tax credits.

The June 28th All-American Presidential Forum proved that talk about rural issues among Democrats is increasing. Edwards made a brief mention of rural poverty. Richardson again added a nod to rural tax credits. Hillary Clinton, fresh from her electronic visit to the National Rural Assembly, referred to the outsourcing of rural jobs and the prevalence of HIV among rural women.

Outside of debates, candidates are still generally not mentioning rural America. The two most notable exceptions are John Edwards, who in April announced a detailed plan for rural economic recovery, and Hillary Clinton, who in the Senate this past March introduced legislative initiatives “to help restore promise to rural America.”

Is it important that rural issues are included in the political dialog at this stage in the race? Are any of the candidates in touch with rural America? Write your thoughts and opinions regarding this story and other rural issues on the new Daily Yonder forum.

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