More than nine out of ten voters in Florida live in urban counties, so the results from yesterday’s primary may not tell much about rural voters a week before the multi-state primary on Super Tuesday. But some patterns are beginning to emerge that may become extraordinarily important next week. Here is what we’re seeing:

“¢ Exurban areas are different from both cities and rural communities. These partly rural communities around the edges of cities are more conservative than either more rural communities or cities. Mitt Romney beat John McCain in Florida’s exurban counties (places like Nassau and Baker counties, just noth and west of of Jacksonville) in the Republican primary. Former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee scored best in the exurban counties, too.

“¢ Barack Obama’s victory in rural portions of South Carolina was not reprised in Florida. Obama had his lowest totals in rural Florida — and his best showing was in the exurban portions of the state. Obama won rural South Carolina — but rural South Carolina also has that state’s highest proportion of black voters.

(And does it make a difference, since the candidates didn’t campaign in Florida? Even so, 1.7 million Democrats voted in Florida — close to the Republican tally of 1.9 million. In fact, more Democrats than Republicans voted in Florida rural and exurban counties.)

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“¢ Democratic winner Hillary Clinton did best in Florida’s urban counties; she did the worst in the exurban areas, Mitt Romney country. John Edwards received only 13 percent of the vote in urban Florida; in rural counties, he took 27 percent of the vote. Among Florida’s 29 rural counties, Clinton won 16, Edwards won 11 and Obama only 2.

For Republicans, there is a pattern is emerging from the fog: Romney and Mike Huckabee gain in rural and exurban areas. McCain excels in the more urban counties. (Although McCain did win rural South Carolina .)

For Democrats, it’s all foggy. Obama did best in rural Nevada and rural South Carolina. He did worst in rural Florida. Edwards had his lowest totals among rural voters in South Carolina. In Florida, Edwards had his best success in the rural counties. He is set to announce his withdrawl from the race in New Orleans today.

One thing for sure, the exit poll designations of what is rural, urban and suburban don’t conform with the votes on the ground. Exit polling in Florida said Clinton won 45 percent of the urban vote. She actually drew 50.4%. Exit polls said Obama won 40 percent of the urban vote. He won 33.6 percent of the vote in urban counties. Exit polls showed McCain winning 40 percent of the rural vote, better than his totals among urban voters. In reality, urban counties were where McCain had his strongest support. (See the Yonder charts for real vote percentages in rural, exurban and urban counties.)

Democrats pulled slightly more of their votes from rural and exurban communities than did Republicans.

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager said Tuesday that the Illinois senator was banking on the rural vote to gain large numbers of delegates on February 5. (The way the Democrats apportion delegates, rural communities have a disproportionate voice, according to Obama campaign manager David Plouffe .) “As we look at Feb. 5, another look back would be our strength in small town and rural areas,” Plouffe said. “We think that sets up very well for Feb. 5, not just in terms of states but in terms of delegates.”

Florida’s results did nothing either to support or discredit Plouffe’s strategy. And voting begins in less than a week in 22 states.

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